MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
The Special Olympics is a program designed to give special-needs athletes the chance to test their strength, speed and skills, to build their confidence and to show them they are as competitive as everyone else.
In tradition of an event that has been going on for more than 40 years now, approximately 120 athletes from Hiroshima and Yamaguchi Prefecture competed in the regional Special Olympic Games hosted here Sunday.
In total, more than 300 visitors attended the event.
More than 60 station members volunteered their time to help support the internationally-recognized event.
Competitors participated in cycling, basketball games hosted at the IronWorks Gym, soccer at Penny Lake and bowling at the Strike Zone.
"Because of their disabilities, a lot of these kids don't feel like they're 'normal'," said Brian Wilson, assistant athletic director. "Being able to come and participate in things that their peers are able to do on a regular basis and interact with the station personnel really makes a difference."
Participants competed against one another and also played in friendly games with the volunteers.
"Some of them are better than us," said Bradley Robinson, a Special Olympics volunteer.
Robinson said he has previously volunteered for Special Olympics events and helping out children is something important to him.
"It's important to make sure your kids have a good foundation and that they're happy, because eventually that's what they are going to build from," said Robinson.
Many of the volunteers said they enjoyed being able to get involved with the children through the different events.
"I absolutely loved being part of the day’s activities," said Katia Williams, a Special Olympics volunteer who participated in the bowling portion of the day.
After eating lunch at the Crossroads, the Special Olympics competitors made their way back to the IronWorks Gym for the closing ceremony.
Each participant was given a medal to congratulate the competitors for their efforts during the event.
For next year’s event, the IronWorks Gym plans on inviting even more participants from the local area and making it even more competitive.