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Volunteer encouragers, from right to left, Marine Staff Sgt. Kelvin Roberts, Earl Gittens, Gunnery Sgt. Darryl Dyson and Gunnery Sgt Terrell Lasker cheer on runners in a 100-meter dash at last year's Special Olympics. Organizors are still looking for volunteers for this year's games.
Volunteer encouragers, from right to left, Marine Staff Sgt. Kelvin Roberts, Earl Gittens, Gunnery Sgt. Darryl Dyson and Gunnery Sgt Terrell Lasker cheer on runners in a 100-meter dash at last year's Special Olympics. Organizors are still looking for volunteers for this year's games. (Carlos Bongioanni / S&S)
Volunteer encouragers, from right to left, Marine Staff Sgt. Kelvin Roberts, Earl Gittens, Gunnery Sgt. Darryl Dyson and Gunnery Sgt Terrell Lasker cheer on runners in a 100-meter dash at last year's Special Olympics. Organizors are still looking for volunteers for this year's games.
Volunteer encouragers, from right to left, Marine Staff Sgt. Kelvin Roberts, Earl Gittens, Gunnery Sgt. Darryl Dyson and Gunnery Sgt Terrell Lasker cheer on runners in a 100-meter dash at last year's Special Olympics. Organizors are still looking for volunteers for this year's games. (Carlos Bongioanni / S&S)
Marine Staff Sgt. Kelvin Roberts, a volunteer encourager, congratulates a contestant passing the finish line of a 100-meter dash at last year's Special Olympics. Organizors are still looking for volunteers for this year's games.
Marine Staff Sgt. Kelvin Roberts, a volunteer encourager, congratulates a contestant passing the finish line of a 100-meter dash at last year's Special Olympics. Organizors are still looking for volunteers for this year's games. (Carlos Bongioanni / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — More than 5,000 people will converge here June 12 for the 5th Annual Okinawa/Kadena Special Olympics Games.

Game officials say more than 1,000 special-needs athletes and artists will participate in this year’s event.

“As far as I know, we have the largest Special Olympics games in the Pacific,” said Chip Steitz, director of Friends of Kadena Special Olympics fund development.

For the event to succeed, volunteers are needed — 1,500 to be exact, said Senior Master Sgt. Patti McLaughlin, volunteer co-chair. She said volunteers are needed for a crisis team, caretakers for special-needs athletes, sports representatives, and the most important job of “hugger.”

“The huggers sponsor the athletes one-on-one, and are with them throughout the day,” she said.

McLaughlin said the crisis team would be about 150 volunteers who are troubleshooters: “Jacks of all trades, and masters of all,” she said. The crisis team also serves food to the athletes and parents, and empties garbage cans.

Volunteers must be 16 years old or older, McLaughlin said.

To volunteer for the games contact your group representative, or call McLaughlin at DSN 634-0802, or Senior Master Sgt. Phyllis Lopez-Velazquez at DSN 634-7040.

Volunteer options

There are several options for folks who want to volunteer but can’t make it to the games.

A motorcycle poker run will be held April 25 with registration from 9-10 a.m. at the First Chance Saloon on Gate 2 Street, according to Jim Nichols, an event coordinator. All motorcycles are welcomed to join the event, which will end at the elephant cage in Yomitan, near Torii Station. There will be a free barbecue after the ride with the band Hit and Run playing.

A 5K run is planned for May 1 at the Risner Fitness Center, according to Senior Airman Daniela Smith, event organizer. Sign-ups will be held the morning of the race and registration is $10. The first 100 to sign up will receive a T-shirt.

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