News: Spirits high during 2014 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games
Story by Sgt. Daniel Schroeder
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – A record-breaking 2,800 athletes participated in the 2014 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games here, May 30-June 1.
During the two-day event, athletes competed in five events such as track and field, swimming, soccer, cycling and power lifting according to age, gender and ability.
Special Olympics Washington provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, offering them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and have fun.
“It’s not just about the competition,” said John Borgognoni, vice president of sports and programs, Special Olympics Washington. “The athletes look forward to coming here to compete and to socialize with friends and Soldiers.”
Besides the competition, athletes had an opportunity to improve their health and fitness through free dental, vision, hearing and general health screenings by physicians and healthcare professionals through the Healthy Athlete program.
“This program has been around for more than ten years,” said Borgognoni, a Canastota, New York, native. “We were very fortunate to have medical personnel from the (children’s hospital) and Madigan (Army Medical Center) to cover the safety needs for the weekend.”
The Special Olympics hosted its first competition with 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada competing at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1968. Now the Special Olympics have grown to more than 1.7 million athletes worldwide in 150 countries.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord has hosted the Washington Special Olympics for almost four decades. More than 8,000 volunteers support Special Olympics Washington activities by serving as coaches, sports officials, committee members and on-site volunteers at competitions and fundraising events.
“JBLM provides an all in one package, housing, feeding, transportation and volunteers are just some of the things (they) provide,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have a great relationship with the military.”
The summer games is just one of five different seasonal venues offered year-round to Special Olympics athletes.
“They look forward to competing in these games to show their family and friends what they have been working towards all year,” said Alexa Polaski, Special Olympics coach for city of Seattle. “They also enjoy experiencing the military culture and talking to Soldiers.”
For a complete list of medalists, visit the Special Olympics Washington website.