The KMC Spring Special Olympics were once again underway May 9 at Pulaski Park on Vogelweh after being discontinued for approximately three years.
“This event was held in 2011 and prior and was hosted by the Army garrison, but due to budget constraints they were no longer able to host the Spring Special Olympics,” said Melody Tice-Baird, Special Olympics event coordinator. “I took it
upon myself to try and recreate this special event for our German and American athletes here in Kaiserslautern.”
This year’s Special Olympics consisted of events such as track and field, soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball, arts and crafts and karaoke.
There were also non-competitive events for children ages 5 to 7 who weren’t able to compete according to the rules.
“We are out here to teach the athletes a little bit about the game,” said Master Sgt. Nick Palmer, 86th Operations Group and Special Olympics soccer event coordinator. “It’s a really good opportunity for us to give them the chance of feeling great. We helped them practice their dribbling skills, gave them the opportunity to make goals and helped them with their passing skills. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Friday than to give these athletes a day they truly deserve.”
Family and friends gathered around their loved ones at every sport to cheer them on throughout the course of the event.
“I had so much fun playing soccer, basketball, and volleyball,” said Johnny Karaca, an athlete and son of retired Army member Metin Karaca. “I hit a home run.”
With more than 100 athletes and 250 volunteers, this event was geared toward making the athletes happy.
“For one day they can forget that they can’t walk or they can’t talk or they can’t function well,” Tice-Baird said. “For one day they get to participate and win something, get awards and have a great time. It’s just that gift of giving that is so significant about this event. It doesn’t matter what we run into during the day or if we forget something small. As long as these athletes walk away with a big smile on their face, ribbons on their shirt and a medal around their neck, we did our job.”
The opportunity to be able to volunteer for this event and give athletes tips and tricks, really hit home for some.
“This is an event that is pretty special to me,” Palmer said. “My son is mildly autistic with Asperger’s syndrome and a sensory processing disorder. I know that it takes a community effort to give a child who is challenged the support they need to overcome and flourish as much as possible. To give back to the community in an event such as this is the best we can do for the people who do so much for us.”
As the 2014 KMC Spring Special Olympics came to a close, every athlete had the chance to rise to the podium and receive a medal to wear proudly.