Athletes shine at Special Olympics at Ramstein

Markus Bayquen, 6, of Vogelweh Elementary School, Germany, looks at the array of ribbons pinned on his shirt during the KMC Rheinland-Pfalz Special Olympics on Friday, May 19, 2017, while his "buddy," Airman 1st Class Bradley Dickey looks on. The games were held at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.


By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 19, 2017

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Despite the rain Friday, it was a day to shine for some 75 American and German youth participating in the KMC Rheinland Pfalz Special Olympics here.

Most of the students, who have moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, were from Defense Department schools in Germany. A local German school also participated. Each athlete was paired with a “buddy,” drawn from a pool of 300 volunteers of fellow students, military personnel and family members. Together they performed a range of activities inside the Ramstein Southside Fitness Center, including Hula Hoop, basketball, volleyball, pingpong, corn hole, jump rope, tug-of-war and a parachute toss. The athletes were laden with ribbons and encouraged with high-fives and hugs.

“It’s the kids’ day to come out and shine, to be an athlete for the day, win the ribbons, put smiles on their faces,” said Wanda Castillo, a special education teacher at Kaiserslautern High School and the event’s lead organizer.

It was the second annual Special Olympics spring games held on Ramstein. The event used to be held off base and typically drew hundreds of American and German athletes and more than a thousand volunteers from across Germany. It was discontinued several years ago because of lack of funding, organizers said.


Athletes wait to receive a ribbon for participating in game of volleyball on Friday, May 19, 2017, during the KMC Rheinland-Pfalz Special Olympics. The second annual spring games at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, were held at the Southside Fitness Center. The rain forced most activities indoors.

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