Camp Zama’s School Age Center kicks off Month of Military Child with Olympic competitions

Emma Owen, right, and Cymone Vaughn, second-graders, participate in the opening ceremony of the 2021 School Age Center Olympics at Sagamihara Family Housing Area, Japan, April 1.
Emma Owen, right, and Cymone Vaughn, second-graders, participate in the opening ceremony of the 2021 School Age Center Olympics at Sagamihara Family Housing Area, Japan, April 1.

Camp Zama’s School Age Center kicks off Month of Military Child with Olympic competitions

by Winifred Brown
U.S. Army Garrison - Japan

SAGAMIHARA FAMILY HOUSING AREA, Japan (April 5, 2021) – Leila Kaea is well aware the real Olympics only take place every four years, but she would still like to see the School Age Center Olympics she competed in here April 1 become an annual tradition.

“Seeing the kids have so much fun, I thought we might be able to do it again [next year],” said Leila, 9, who competed with about 30 other children.

Ashley Nunez, the center’s acting director, said the center kicked off the Month of the Military Child with the Olympic-themed competitions partially because this year’s theme is resiliency, and the competitions played into that theme.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to combine something that’s happening currently with the Olympics [in Tokyo] with something that the kids are able to do here in-house,” Nunez said. “They decided they wanted to have a SAC Olympics, so it was a lot of planning and a lot of practice, but we prevailed.”

The event included an opening ceremony where children paraded onto the competition area by team, holding torches with red and orange tissue paper in the shape of flames. A DJ played music as they marched in, including “Chariots of Fire” and the “Olympic Theme.” Parents could not attend because of COVID-19 restrictions, but a few gathered outside the fence to cheer on the competitors.

Children also performed the “Jerusalema Dance” during the opening ceremony, and Jermarkus Wilson, 8, and Leila said it was their favorite part.

“I really liked it because I was coordinated with one of my best friends, Natalie,” Leila said. “We practiced a lot.”

Children wore masks and socially distanced throughout the event, and Nunez said the children practiced health precautions in the context of the competitions so everything would go smoothly.

In addition, the children helped organize the event and chose the competitions, which included an egg hunt, a “SAC” race, Capture the Flag, Steal the Gold, and Cosmic Bowling, Nunez said.

When creating and choosing the games, children researched the Olympics and chose a country their grade level would represent, Nunez said. In addition, the teams made tie-dye T-shirts so everyone could identify the teams by color.

Aeris Gendron, 9, and Bruce Crispell, 7, said their favorite part was the egg hunt because the prizes inside the eggs included items such as erasers and bead necklaces.

Kian Meadows, 8, said he liked the egg hunt as well, but also liked the variety of the events and the ability to move from station to station.

Nunez said the competitions were part of the center’s 2021 Growth Mindset initiative, which aims to improve children’s lives through positive thinking and the use of technology for enrichment projects during COVID-19 restrictions.

The center held a closing ceremony April 2, and all the children received a certificate of achievement, Nunez said.

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