Kicking off on Friday, May 19 Special Olympics Mississippi (SOMS) athletes will take to Keesler Air Force Base for their annual Summer Games.
For 31 years Keesler has been opening up it’s doors to host the Summer Games. The Special Olympics offers year-round training and three statewide sports competitions for Olympic-style sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Executive Director of Special Olympics Mississippi, Monica Daniels, said that the Summer Games for SOMS is their largest event of the year. They expect to see 4,000 or more people this weekend at Keesler AFB.
“Summer, with our partnership with Keesler, is indeed our largest, and they have been hosting this for 31 years,” said Daniels.
A huge aspect of the games at Keesler is the athlete-airman partnerships. Every athlete competing in the games is paired up with a newly recruited airman, or woman, for the entire weekend. This forms bonds that can last more than a few days.
“They are with them, they bond, they make friendships that last a lifetime, they’re cheering them on in every event they compete in. The hospitality that Keesler has done for 30 years for all of our athletes is just incredible,” said Daniels.
This year there are 19 competitions, and they are all incorporated in the Olympics.
“If you think, Michael Phelps, you’re going to have swimming and aquatics there. If you think track and field you’re going to have every one of the track events you see at the Olympic games in the summer that people watch and see,” said Sam Wells, Marketing and Development Director Special Olympics MS.
They even have their very own torch run, just like the Olympics. The SOMS participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, with the Flame of Hope. Law Enforcement officers carry the torch across the state the week before the summer games.
“Law enforcement officers from different precincts across the state carry the torch, starting in Hernando,” said Wells.
Daniels said the games are very much sports with competition, but it is all apart of the vehicle of inclusion.
“Those of us without intellectual disabilities have a lot to learn from the spirit, and dedication of those athletes. That really is the mission of the movement of Special Olympics, it’s all about inclusion for everybody. It’s not ‘us and them,'” said Daniels.
This year is a qualifying year for National Games 2018 in Washington.
The Summer Games are still looking for volunteers for the event, to sign up visit HERE.