35th Special Olympcs: heads up, hearts strong
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Nearly 150 athletes from nine schools competed at the 35th Annual Kanto Plains Special Olympics May 31 at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Both U.S. and Japanese athletes from schools throughout the Kanto Plains competed in track and field, swimming, frisbee, bowling, softball, soccer and basketball events.
This year's motto, "Keep your head up, keep your heart strong," signified the strength in every athlete to push through their challenges and give their best at the games.
"This event provides athletes the opportunity to showcase physical fitness, demonstrate their courage, and experience joy and friendship with their fellow athletes, families and the community," said Col. Mark August, 374th Airlift Wing commander and grand marshal for the event.
To make the games possible, tremendous support is needed from the Yokota community and its partners.
"The games would not have been possible without the leadership of this year's committee of about 50 personnel and the support of nearly 1,000 volunteers from the Joint Services from all regions of the Kanto Plains and our Japanese Self-Defense Force bilateral partners," said Master Sgt. Joshua Hodgin, KPSO director.
Yokota has a long standing history with the Special Olympics dating back to 1980 when the Non-Commissioned Officers Association established the Kanto Plains Special Olympics. The program started with three athletes from the Department of Defense Dependent Schools. In 1984, the Kanto Plain Special Olympics became a separate private organization from the NCOA and remains the only Special Olympics program in Japan sanctioned by Special Olympics International in Washington D.C.
According to Hodgin the Special Olympic games are continually improving and it is his hope that next year's games are just as successful if not more.