Special Olympics comes to Dover
(Right) Col. Manson Morris, 436th Airlift Wing commander, passes the Special Olympics torch to Mark Wise, Special Olympics of Delaware director of training and volunteer management, Sept. 11, 2010. The torch represents a year-long effort by Delaware's law enforcement community to support the Special Olympics by providing volunteers, public awareness and needed financial support.(U.S. Air Force photo by Jason Minto/Released)
by Airman 1st Class Matthew Hubby
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
9/15/2010 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. - -- Special Olympics Delaware held its 2010 cycling tournament at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Sept. 11. This is the second cycling tournament held at the base since 2009, and also marks Special Olympics Delaware's 40th anniversary.
"Our goal is to offer Olympic-type sports to people with intellectual disabilities," said Mark Wise, Special Olympics of Delaware director of training and volunteer management. "We like to give them the opportunity to compete year round. We like to have them train for eight to 12 weeks for a particular sport, and then we try to get them ramped up for the next sport so they are active throughout the year."
"It's great to be part of this milestone," said Col. Manson Morris, 436th Airlift Wing commander. "We are really happy to restart this partnership and grateful for the opportunity to host this event."
The event ran from 8 to 11 a.m. and featured different lengths of races: 500 meters, one kilometer, five kilometers, 10 kilometers, 15 kilometers, 20 kilometers and a tandem bike event. Attending the event were cyclists from Delaware, Virginia and Maryland.
The Delaware teams were: The North Stars, Newark Lightning, Thunder Bears, Might Marlins and the Delaware Autism Program. The Maryland teams were: Special Olympics Maryland Upper Shore, Howard County, Md. The Virginian team was: North Virginia Flying Eagles.
One of the competitors, Justin Daisey of the Mighty Marlins, an Oceanview, Del., based team, was very excited about riding in the races. Mr. Daisey rides a tricycle, which he says are much harder to turn.
"I've done a lot of practice," said Mr. Daisey. "I love riding; I think I'm going to win this race."
Mr. Daisey and his team began training in June, and this is his fifth year riding. Before then, he had never ridden a bike before. The team has four riders, two on standard bikes and two on tricycles. This is the team's second year competing.
The competitors gave each race their all, trying their best to win. Many came out victorious, and a few did not place as high as they hoped. But they all gave it their best try, and were supported by about 100 Dover AFB volunteers.
"I feel the event went very well," said Jennifer Vallee, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs community relations chief. "So many volunteers came out for this event and they all did an outstanding job in coordinating various facets of the event. I have been receiving a great amount of positive feedback from family members, athletes and volunteers about how well the event was organized and operated."
"I want to say thank you to all the base personnel who volunteered their time to help with the event," said Mrs. Vallee. "It was such a great event because of the volunteers."
The Special Olympics, for all its competitors and their strong spirits, still requires a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly. At Dover Air Force Base, many military members answered the call to help in the Olympics as volunteers.
"This is my first time doing Special Olympics volunteering," said Staff Sgt. Gary Hartman, 436th Force Support Squadron personnelist. "I do a lot of volunteering in my spare time; I've done Habitat for Humanity and a few others. I spend time on and off base, and it's a really great experience. This is very rewarding. I helped set everything up, and I plan to stick around and help tear it all down when it's over."
The event was a great success, said Mr. Wise. The course was one of the best he'd seen for a time trial, he said.
"We couldn't have done this event without the support of Dover AFB," said Mr. Wise. "The support was overwhelming; we are working with Mrs. Vallee to see if we could possibly have another event in the spring for Senior Special Olympics. The facilities on base and the support from the volunteers were great. It was a huge success, in no small part due to the volunteers and the phenomenal course they set up for us."