YAB Hosts 39th Kanto Plains Special Olympics
By Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore, 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 24, 2018
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan --
An overwhelming, unforgettable and simply contagious smile. No matter if they finished first or last, their smiles were constant and true. The day was not about winning, it was about trying no matter what obstacles stood in the way.
The Special Olympics credo states “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.”
For the 300 plus athletes who competed in the 39th annual Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018, that oath was all about the courage to try time and time again.
“This was my first time competing in the Special Olympics so I was a little nervous,” said Miles Kartchner, 8 year old and three time swimming gold medalist from Yokota. “I want to become a tough and strong swimmer so I’ve been taking swim lessons for half of a year to get ready for this. I had a lot of fun today.”
That feeling of fun and the smiles that accompanied it could be seen on the face of not just the athletes but every volunteer who took part in the KPSO.
“Today was a day for all of us to come out here and forget about all of the problems we potentially have in our own lives,” said Chuck Kropog, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron NCO in charge of facility maintenance. “These athletes really do have a sense of innocence about them and they each came out here and didn’t let anything hold them back. Win or lose, no matter the obstacles they each faced, their attitudes are something I am sure no one involved in this event will forget.
“Of the 1000 plus volunteers from all branches of service, Koku Jietai(JASDF) and the local area, I can safely say each had a day filled with touching moments.”
For the volunteers who were lucky enough to be athlete buddies, they were not only able to be a part of their athlete’s journey from start to finish of every competition but to truly bond with them.
“Today was a rollercoaster of emotions for both my athlete and I,” said Samuel Mislyan, 374th Communications Squadron Operations Flight client systems technician and athlete buddy for the event. “From the moment she met me she just gave me this gigantic hug and was just so elated to meet me and I couldn’t help but be equally excited to meet her.
“After such an emotional start to our day together and being able to be there to guide and cheer her on in every race we had together really created a memory for me that I know I will never forget. I made a great friend today.”
As the event left everyone involved with lifelong memories it would never have been possible without the collective efforts of all of the volunteers that worked and coordinated the event.
“I think what we accomplished in putting the KPSO together here just goes to show the level of good you can do when you have that unity,” said Kropog. “If we put our differences aside and really find that common bond, we can do a lot of good in this world.
“Together we gave these athletes a day they aren’t going to forget. It was an experience I know I will always remember. To all of the volunteers, thank you for making this happen. To all of the athletes, thank you for showing us true courage and the power of a smile. I can’t wait to see all of you next year.”