300 from 52nd Fighter Wing bring smiles to special children
European edition, Friday, September 21, 2007
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — When 15-year-old Sonja Schmitz was asked to describe the St. Martin’s Special Children’s Day activities at Spangdahlem on Thursday, she replied, “Schön.” Translated from German, it means “beautiful.”
“Schön” was heard frequently as the more than 70 students from St. Martin’s school in Bitburg and some 300 volunteers from the 52nd Fighter Wing played games, ate American-style food and had some plain old fun at the base’s fitness center.
Beate Even, an educator at the German school, said the Americans who volunteer really treat the children, between the ages of 6 and 20, special.
“Americans take the kids how they are,” said Even. “That is not normal for Germans.”
Airmen walked hand in hand with the children as they walked on a balancing beam, ran races or shot some basketball.
Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Walsh, coordinator for the event, was impressed with the volunteers who turned out.
“They are putting the smiles on these kids’ faces,” Walsh said of the volunteers.
Walsh had challenged the community for 225 volunteers and got more than that.
After lunch, a group of the children performed a drum concert led by Regina Mannitz, the St. Martin’s principal.
“A lot of the students can only speak very little,” she said. “Here they have a way to express themselves, make a loud noise, and get attention. It makes them feel very important.”
St. Martin’s is a state-run school that has been teaching special-needs children for more than 30 years.
The sports day started in 1988 at Bitburg Air Base and moved to Spangdahlem after Bitburg closed in 1994.
It was suspended for security concerns after Sept. 11, 2001, and resumed last year.
Listen to some of the children who participated in the event play drums and watch scenes of day's activities here .