MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Station residents volunteered for the Special Olympics Hiroshima held at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Oct. 4, 2015.
On July 20, 1968, Eunice Shriver founded the Special Olympics and it became officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 1988. This program provides year-round training for upcoming competitions in a variety of Olympic style sports and is catered to children and adults with mental and learning disabilities.
Activities held at the Special Olympics Hiroshima included basketball, soccer, cycling and bowling. During the competition, athletes, volunteers and guests expressed enthusiasm as they interacted and experienced new cultures.
“This is my third time coming out here,” said Gou Shimamoto, a Special Olympics athlete. “I enjoy meeting new people, seeing new faces and being in a different atmosphere.”
As the ninth Special Olympics Hiroshima held at the air station, event coordinators hope to publicize the event and encourage more sportsmen to compete.
Hosting the event here helps service members and their families build stronger relationships with Japanese locals by breaking language barriers and promoting positive interaction in a foreign country.
“Statistically, only six percent of the people in Japan have ever heard of special Olympics,” said Frank Thornton, chairman for Special Olympics Hiroshima. “I’d like to switch that around and make it six percent who haven’t heard of Special Olympics.”
Volunteering at events like this provides station residents a chance to connect with the community, give back to others and better the American reputation with our host nation.
“I think that events like this are good because we’re giving back to the community,” said Cpl. Casillas Bermudez, an aviation ordnance Marine with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12. “Since Japan is our host nation, we need to be friendly with them. They come on base – we have fun and we volunteer. We’re just building relationships as I see it. I plan on volunteering all the time. It’s awesome. You get to do something different, it’s not like you do this every day.”
The Special Olympics instills confidence, inspires a sense of competition and improves health through the transformative power of sports and Thornton said he hopes the people who couldn’t attend this time, can make it next year.