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Volunteers make Special Olympics an "exhilirating experience"

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joe McFadden
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The triumph over adversity, the excitement of competition and the chance to cheer for others are some of the reasons the athletes, coaches and spectators come to the Special Olympics each year.

But for those who volunteered their time and efforts to make the tournament possible, they were just happy to be a part of a good cause.  

Nearly 150 volunteers from the Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base communities supported the Special Olympics Florida 2010 Northwest State Basketball Tournament at Hurlburt Field Feb. 5-6.

This year's games comprised more than 250 athletes and 90 coaches from 10 counties in northwest Florida. The Hurlburt and Eglin Company Grade Officer's Councils sponsored this year's tournament and coordinated the games at the Aderholt and Commando gyms.

"This was a great partnership between our bases to show our support for the Special Olympics," said Col. Bill Porter, vice commander of the 96th Air Base Wing. "We want to thank the volunteers for being here. This could not have happened without them."

For more than a decade, the tournament took place at Eglin. However, with Eglin's gym closed for renovations, Hurlburt Field hosted this year's games for the second time in base history.

"This year's tournament was an exhilarating experience," said 2nd Lt. Roashelle Rose, Air Force Research Laboratory and event coordinator. "Seeing the joy on the athletes' faces made this all worthwhile."

Lieutenant Rose said many people who watched Friday's opening ceremony and games decided to come back and volunteer Saturday.

"All of the volunteers were professional and helpful," said 1st Lt. Lucas Vantassel, 1st Special Operations Comptroller Squadron and Hurlburt Field CGOC president. "They were willing to help and go above and beyond their regular responsibilities. I was impressed by the number of people and their willingness to help out."

Airman 1st Class Nolan Smith, 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, escorted the athletes around the gyms and held up a banner during Friday's opening ceremony.

"They are really good at overcoming challenges," he said. "A lot of the athletes had never been on a base before and asked me about being in the Air Force. I was glad to help out."

Airman Tracey Anunciacion, 19th Special Operations Squadron, worked with clean-up during Saturday's games.

"They have good sportsmanship," Airman Anunciacion said. "One of the players made a shot, and a member of the opposing team went up to him and said 'Good job.' It's not about competition, but about having fun."

Airman 1st Class Dandrell Thomas, 15th Special Operations Squadron, had never been to the Special Olympics until she volunteered as a food vendor Saturday.

"I didn't see any disabilities at all," Airman Thomas said. "They were very talented, awesome athletes."

She also said that everyone should come to one Special Olympics game in their lifetime to see what it's all about.

"This was a good opportunity to share with people," Airman Thomas said. "I like volunteering, but this was more than that. I plan on going to many more tournaments and help out anyway I can."