Day of the Athletes: Garrison hosts Special Olympics

Christine June
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

It was a lot of firsts for Taylor McDaniels at the Special Olympics Spring Games 2007 held May 2 at the German Police Academy in Enkenbach-Aslenborn. This was the first Special Olympics for the Patrick Henry Elementary fifth grader, and she took first place in her first event – the 50-meter unassisted race. “I’m very happy to win because if you deserve something, you get a perfect certificate for that thing,” she said, referring to the ribbons given at each competitive event. “Right on – you were terrific (in the race),” said Emily Morris, 18, Hanau High School senior, who was volunteering as McDaniels’ buddy – an athlete’s personal coach, cheerleader and friend for the day.

Special Olympics is an international program of athletic competition for children and adults with special needs. It comes to the KMC the first Wednesday in May for 24 years courtesy of the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern. For the past eight years, the event has been held and co-hosted by the German Police Academy.

McDaniels was one of 646 athletes competing in seven competitive games such as soccer, badminton and volleyball. They were also able to enjoy 13 non-competitive games like treasure hunt or bowling.

Athletes, ages 5 to 70, were from 45 schools and institutions throughout Germany. Out of this number, there were 17 Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe from eight military communities.

***image2***Volunteering to help with the athletes’ day were almost 2,000 German and American military and civilian members from surrounding areas. Michael Nimtz, from the 21st Theater Support Command in Kaiserslautern, has been volunteering for this event for 13 years. “I always make it a point to have this day free every year,” he said, who has volunteered as a buddy, translator, and game judge, and now for the past several years, as a co-coordinator for the soccer event. “It’s such a great event and so important for all the schools over here.”

Ribbons were given at the competitive events for just trying, with some athletes garnering first, second or third place honors. By the end of the games, numerous multicolored ribbons adorned most athletes. Adding to the color were medals of gold, silver and bronze awarded in the competitive games in gender-specific categories such as assisted, unassisted or wheelchair bound.

The Sarah Bican Inspirational Athlete Trophy was awarded to Ronny Kennel from Jakob-Muth-Schule in Kusel, for showing spirit and love of the games. This award is named after Sarah Bican who, as a DODDS teacher, brought Special Olympics to Kaiserslautern in 1974. “He was an inspiration to me because he always kept a smile on his face, and he always wanted to make sure everybody else was having fun as well,” said Tom Malehorn, from Ramstein Air Base, who was Kennel’s buddy.

Athletes and volunteers from Hanau, Stuttgart, Bitburg, Heidelberg, Mannheim and the KMC participated at this year’s games.


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