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Kanto Plains Special Olympics kicks off with a Mitigation Plan against COVID

A volunteer displays a physical distancing sign during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics

A volunteer displays a physical distancing sign during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 22, 2021. All participants were reminded to remain as distant as possible in accordance with health and safety guidelines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tyrone Thomas)

A volunteer waits to catch a disk during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics

A volunteer waits to catch a disk during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 22, 2021. Volunteers were equipped with gloves for safe interaction with athletic equipment. The disks were retrieved and sent to cleaning stations for repeated use. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tyrone Thomas)

A volunteer cleans a flying disk during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics

A volunteer cleans a flying disk during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 22, 2021. This year marks the 42nd annual KPSO, an athletic event involving families from all over the Kanto Plains and Tokyo Metropolitan area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tyrone Thomas)

A parent and athlete embrace each other during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics

A parent and athlete embrace each other during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 22, 2021. The KPSO seeks to create a new world of inclusion and community, where every person is accepted and welcomed, regardless of ability or disability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tyrone Thomas)

An athlete throws a disk during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics

An athlete throws a disk during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 22, 2021. Athletes were tasked with throwing a disk into a suspended loop. Volunteers waited on the other side of the hoops prepared to retrieve the disk and send them to the cleaning stations afterward. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tyrone Thomas)

An athlete kicks a soccer ball during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics

An athlete kicks a soccer ball during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 22, 2021. Athletes were instructed to kick the soccer ball into the goal as hard as they can, each athlete got three opportunities to kick. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tyrone Thomas)

An athlete jumps during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics

An athlete jumps during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 22, 2021. The long jump is one of many of the athletic events at KPSO, testing the athlete�s horizontal and vertical leap. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tyrone Thomas)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan --

The 42nd annual Kanto Plains Special Olympics commenced this year with a new mitigation plan to protect athletes and combat the spread of COVID-19, May 22. 

The KPSO seeks to create a new world of inclusion and community, where every person is accepted and welcomed, regardless of ability or disability.

“So many years ago, our Noncommissioned Officers Association began the KPSO and I’m proud that we’re able to continue this tradition even amid this year’s pandemic challenges,” said Col. Andrew J. Campbell, 374th Airlift Wing Commander. “Because of the pandemic, these special opportunities we have to get together with our community are all the more special to us and I appreciate all of you being here today. I appreciate the volunteers here today, and I appreciate the brave athletes.”

The mitigation plan enacted by the KPSO committee required all attendees to sign a form ensuring they would abide by certain restrictions for the safety of the participants, for example, agreeing to have one’s temperature taken before entering the event, wearing a mask, and sanitizing equipment before and after use. 

In addition to the previous precautions, the volunteers wore gloves before interacting with anything the athletes came in contact with, enforced physical distancing measures, as well as setting up sanitation stations to clean softballs, soccer balls and throwing discs, all in order to reduce the potential spread of COVID.

“A year ago, like most wing events, the 2020 Special Olympics was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Master Sgt. Casey Jones, 2021 KPSO director. “We were confused and disappointed but through hard work and determination our KPSO planners and volunteers came together and assembled this event.”

This is one of many ways forward in a new normal, establishing a method for a community to enjoy events and large gatherings, while still maintaining health standards and observing guidelines given by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.