Base community helps some with special needs compete like champions
Craig Le Carpentier kept confident in his shot for glory as a small group of onlookers watched him hurl an American football high up in the air during Joan Mann Sport’s Day, an Olympic-style competition for special-needs people across East Anglia.
Satisfied with his long throw, the 17-year old from Bury St. Edmunds’ Communi-K8 Youth Club then strutted toward the obstacle course, which would become his favorite contest on Saturday.
“I liked the obstacle course. I was very, very fast. I think I got the fastest time,” Le Carpentier said without a doubt.
Along with Le Carpentier, about 280 other participants showed off their competitive sides in the 26th annual event, sponsored by RAF Mildenhall’s Top 3 enlisted fellowship club.
The one-day event had 12 games that included a 50- and 100-yard dash, an American football throw, basketball shoot, bowling, football kick, Frisbee toss, obstacle course, ring toss, tennis ball bounce, tennis ball shuttle run and a wheelchair slalom course.
Much of the competitors appeared excited as they drifted to each event, in search of overcoming whatever challenge lay ahead.
“They look forward to it every year,” event chairman Master Sgt. Russell Anderson said about the eager competitors.
In his third year volunteering for the event, Anderson said he keeps coming out because of its upbeat ambience.
“You get a great sense of reward knowing that 280 people who would probably be just sitting at home have had a great day,” Anderson continued. “We make a difference in their lives.”
Roughly 700 volunteers gave up their day in support of Saturday’s sporting event, Anderson said.
One of those volunteers was Airman Adrian Goss, who works in the 100th Communications Squadron’s ground radio communications section.
“I like the whole environment. It’s really cool, and I like helping these guys out,” said Goss, who kept busy escorting Le Carpentier to each of the games.
Joan Mann, a former Ministry of Defense employee, initiated the sport’s day in 1981 as a community relations tool. She passed away 18 months ago at the age of 84.
Even though she is no longer here, the event will live on, said her son Robert Mann.
“The amount of enjoyment that the participants have is really great to watch,” he said. “It fosters relations between the American and English communities.”