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During the Exceptional Family Member Program Fifth Annual Special Olympics athletes participated in an array of Olympics style sporting events to include an obstacle course in which the Olympians weaved through cones, hopscotched, crawled through hoola hoops and limboed under rope.

Photo by Atrayo Harper

Quantico hosts Fifth Annual Special Olympics Fun Field Day Meet

3 May 2017 | Jeremey Beale/Staff Writer Marine Corps Base Quantico

Rain couldn’t stop more than 80 young athletes from a fun day out as Marine Corps Base Quantico’s Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) hosted their Fifth Annual Special Olympics Fun Field Day Meet April 22 in Barber Physical Activity Center.

The event was originally scheduled to take place in Butler Stadium, but was moved inside to the gym due to rain.  The meet was a non-competitive athletic event for contestants ages three to adult diagnosed with intellectual or developmental disabilities and included athletes from EFMP and surrounding communities.

Athletes were able to participate in an array of events consisting of standing long jump, 50 meter dash and speed walk, an obstacle run, bean bag toss and more. In addition to taking part in the Special Olympic event, every athlete was awarded a participation medal for simply having fun.

As uplifting music filled the room and children ran, jumped and played alongside one another, each athlete held the Special Olympics oath in high regard—“Let me win, but, if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

According to EFMP Manager Carlton Sauls, he couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with emotion as he watched these young athletes run side-by-side with their peers and volunteers, because it was an infectious energy that hit him right in his heart.

“I am amazed how well the event came together when the weather wasn’t on our side and there being so many moving parts,” Sauls said. “But, at the end of the day I know that the children and their families had a great time and will have many memories to share.”

Sauls showed much gratitude for more than 150 volunteer Marines, police officers, fire and emergency services officials, civilians and students who came to cheer the athletes on.

It was because of organizations such as the Single Marine Program (SMP), Quantico Fire and Emergency Services (QF&ES), Provost Marshal Office (PMO) and Quantico Middle and High School JROTC that the event was able to maintain a smooth and positive environment for all to enjoy.

Volunteers ran water to the athletes, directed activities, guided groups of athletes from event to event and for a select few athletes, they were assigned a volunteer buddy who supported and encouraged the athlete through the events.

For some volunteers they were the feet for those who could not walk and the hands for those who could not throw.

“SMP could have done a lot of things today for our Days of Service volunteering, but we chose to help warm the hearts of all the young athletes and their families by providing aid to EFMP efforts,” Michael Moore, program manager of SMP said.

For Christopher Tucker, master of ceremonies for the Quantico Special Olympic event, the non-profit has left such a strong impression on his life that he has come back three years in a row to take up the role of master of ceremonies. Tucker is the management assistant at Civilian Manpower at Training and Education Command (TECOM).

“The impact of the Special Olympics on the athletes and volunteers is truly immeasurable,” Tucker said in a prior interview with the Sentry. “Personally, my first year, I went out hoping to leave an impression on someone’s life and I hope I did.”

According to Tucker, every year the event has gotten better and better as they have continually pursued new ways to offer new levels of enjoyment.

However, Tucker believes that this event is so much more than simply one day of participation, but rather an event meant to gather a community of people and let them know that they are not alone.

For Angie Johnson, wife of an Air Force airman, the feeling of community was very apparent as this was the second year her daughter participated in the Special Olympics.

With an entire family of support, she was joined by her husband and three girls.

“All my daughter could talk about for two months was running in the Special Olympics with her friends,” Johnson said. “I was just happy to see her happy.”

According to the Special Olympics website, it has been their mission for the past five decades to provide year-round athletic competition and training in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. This gives them the opportunity to develop physically while demonstrating courage and experiencing joy as they share their gifts with their families, friends, other Special Olympians and surrounding communities.

As the Special Olympics spirit continues to transform lives aboard Quantico, the EFMP hopes to continue to grow the participation of the non-profit’s 4.7 million athletes and millions of volunteers across the globe. 

The Marine Corps Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) is a mandatory program, MCO 1754.4B, for Marines with family members with exceptional needs. The primary purpose of the EFMP is to ensure the continuum of care for eligible family members by identifying families with special needs and maximizing the provision of medical, educational, and local services.

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