More than 670 athletes shine

Christine June
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

It was their day, but the German and American athletes happily shared
their triumphs May 3 during the 23rd Annual Special Olympics Spring
Games 2006.

Sponsored by the U.S. Army Garrison
Kaiserslautern, Special Olympics is an international athletic
competition for children and adults with special needs. It was the
seventh year the games were held and co-hosted by the German Police
Academy in Enkenbach-Alsenborn.

“Today, the athletes are the
center of attention,” said Tryn Rekker, who organized this year’s
games. “They can choose their events or activities and participate when
and how many times they want.”

Emre Ozguc, from Patrick Henry
Elementary School in Heidelberg, wanted to keep on running even after
he won his race. Volunteers manning the 50-meter races held extra heats
for him and other like-minded athletes. He ran more than five times
after his first race.

“I like to run,” said the fourth-grader.

could race all day,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Rayna Lawter from
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, who was volunteering as Emre’s buddy
– an athlete’s personal coach, cheerleader and friend for the day.

a special day just for them, and it’s great seeing all the kids have a
great time,” said Sergeant Lawter, who was volunteering in her second
Special Olympics, her first here. “Sportsmanship is great among the
athletes, and they’re very appreciative, saying ‘thank you’ to those
volunteering for their day.”

Emre was one of 674 athletes
competing in eight competitive games including soccer, badminton and
volleyball, and enjoying 12 non-competitive games like treasure hunt or
parachute. The athletes, ages 5 to 70, were from 46 schools and
institutions throughout Germany and Belgium.

“The kids are
having such a blast,” said Sandy Gayler, Emre’s teacher, who escorted
16 children to the games. “All the volunteers are very dedicated, and
you can tell they’re enjoying themselves as well as having fun working
with the kids.”

Volunteering to help with the athletes’ day were 1,416 German and American military and civilian members from surrounding areas.

were given at each competitive event 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.

to the color were more than 200 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 Daniel Dahm from
Jakob-Muth-Schule in Kusel, for showing a spirit and love of the games.
This award is named after Sarah Bican, who as a Department of Defense
Dependents Schools-Europe teacher brought Special Olympics to
Kaiserslautern in 1974.

Kaiserslautern American High School
Junior Paul Phipps received the Army Garrison Commander’s Award as this
year’s best overall athlete.

“I love it,” said Paul about his
trophy, giving it another kiss like he did at the medal ceremony. “I
practice all the time (as a member of his school’s track-and-field
Paul’s special education teacher, Mark Pierce, said his students look forward to the garrison’s Special Olympics every year.

amazing how they can bring so many different schools together and have
this kind of organization with this many events for children who have
special needs,” he said. “It’s just amazing that they do this.”

Most KMC schools were represented at this year’s games.

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