Special Olympics at Camp Humphreys includes South Korean competitors for first time
Stars and Stripes May 3, 2023
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Students from schools in and around Pyeongtaek city competed Wednesday in the Camp Humphreys Unified Special Olympics, an event that included South Korean athletes for the first time.
Pupils from the South Korean Ebada and Dongbang special-needs schools joined students from all four on-base schools — Humphreys Central Elementary, Humphreys West Elementary, Humphreys Middle and Humphreys High — along with students from nearby Osan Air Base.
Around 55 student-athletes took part in track and field events ranging from standing long-jumps, softball throws and races of 25 meters to 400 meters.
The South Korean students were included after the Department of Defense Education Activity-Pacific signed a partnership agreement with Special Olympics Korea last year.
As the student-athletes competed with the help of volunteers, they were cheered on by around 150 kids, parents and teachers waving handmade posters from the stands.
Lori Pyers-Goodwin, the event’s coordinator and a Humphreys Middle School teacher for students with severe disabilities, said the number of student-athletes and volunteers has grown since she started the annual event four years ago.
Pyers-Goodwin, a teacher for 22 years, said she has volunteered for the Special Olympics since her childhood and that “it’s always been near and dear to my heart.”
“Because I work with students with severe disabilities, I see them overlooked sometimes,” she said at the event. “I wanted to do this to give a chance for my students to shine, stand out, get cheered on and get to be seen as the incredible individuals that they are.”
Around 70 volunteers cheered the student-athletes as they crossed the finish lines and threw softballs as far as they could.
Volunteer Joel Black, a children’s physical therapist, said seeing the happiness from the student-athletes and the support from the community was “the most amazing thing in the world.”
“We get to be blessed and to be able to pass on that blessing is a blessing in and of itself,” he said.
Army Staff Sgt. Nico Manibusan, a network communication systems specialist in the 2nd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, said it was “nice to see the community come together for something like this.”
“I think this is great,” Manibusan said. “It’s an opportunity for children with special education to come out here and compete amongst their peers and have other schools combined.”
His 12-year-old son, Emmett Manibusan, competed in the softball throw and standing long jump.
“I threw a soft ball,” Emmett said. “Yes, yes, yes. It was fun.”