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730 Americans, Germans compete in Special Olympics

By SCOTT SCHONAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 4, 2006

ENKENBACH-ALSENBORN, Germany — Sometimes winning truly isn’t everything.

It wasn’t at U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s 23rd annual Special Olympics on Wednesday at the German police academy.

While volunteers kept score and honored the winners of each event, having fun seemed more important to athletes.

Take, for example, Frank Krebs. Win or lose, he would triumphantly thrust both arms into the air, holler as loud as he could and finish with a crowd-pleasing bow after most events.

About 730 German and American athletes such as Krebs competed in this year’s games in Enkenbach-Alsenborn with the help of more than 1,200 volunteers from surrounding communities.

Hundreds of Americans stationed at bases in the Kaiserslautern area gave their time to the event. Lt. Col. Erik Daiga, Garrison Kaiserslautern’s commander, officially opened the spring games.

More than 2.25 million people with intellectual disabilities in more than 150 countries compete in the Special Olympics every year. The organization was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968, and the number of participants in its activities continues to grow.

This is the second year Linn Jorgenson has volunteered for Kaiserslautern’s games. This year, her son, Todd, a 10-year-old who attends Ramstein Intermediate school, also came to help.

“I think it’s awesome out here,” she said. “A lot of fun. It’s incredible.”

Volunteers like Jorgenson and her son served as “buddies” for athletes.

“The buddies are there to be a personal coach for the athletes to be a friend and makes sure the athlete has what he or she needs, that they’re OK, they’re doing good and they’re having a good time,” Tryn Rekker, who organized this year’s games.

Athletes ages 5 to 70 participated in such events as the 50-meter dash, long jump and badminton.

Every athlete got a ribbon just for trying.

But the number of ribbons given out couldn’t match the number of high-fives and hugs between athletes and volunteers.


A participant throws a softball during one of the many events at the 23rd annual Special Olympics at Enkenbach-Alsenborn.
SCOTT SCHONAUER / S&S

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