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Special Olympics to open at JBLM next week

Photo by Ingrid Barrentine William Ellis Jr., left, JBLM Tigers, and his father William Ellis Sr. and Robert Wheeler, Mukilteo Magic, and Trisha Tenan compete in the 50 meter assisted walk June 4, 2011 at the Special Olympics of Washington Summer Games

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Approximately 40 years of friendship between the South Sound military and Special Olympics continues next week. Special Olympics Washington will open its Summer Games June 1 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

More than 6,000 athletes and supporters will converge on JBLM as part of the annual partnership. Soldiers from 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, this year's executive host, and 62nd Medical Brigade, along with 62nd Airlift Wing Airmen are just some of the people who have prepared since February for the weekend event.

Four hundred JBLM service members and civilians in all will volunteer for the games. Melanie Wileczek, JBLM Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security annual training coordinator, said as lead organizer she's been lucky to be affiliated with so many people who want to see this year's games be the best yet.

"There are so many people and pieces involved and they're doing a great job," she said. "Special Olympics has already said (planning) this year has been the best year so far."

SOWA Summer games at JBLM will highlight Special Olympians from throughout Washington and showcase four sports: soccer, track and field, power lifting and cycling.

JBLM Lewis Main's Watkins Field will host soccer competitions June 2 and 3. Team matches will run both days, with an individual skills exhibition June 2.

Cowan Stadium, also on JBLM Lewis Main, will once again be this year's track and field venue. Supported by 16th CAB's 46th Aviation Support Battalion, for two days Special Olympians will go for the gold at Cowan in main track and wheelchair events, as well as shot put competitions and others.

Power Lifting championships will be held near Cowan at the Youth Activity Center, located by the DFMWR Fest Tent.

JBLM Lewis North will be centered around cycling with main routes covering I and D streets and 32nd Division Drive. Events on both days will run between 6:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

In addition to opening ceremonies June 1 and other events, JBLM McChord Field will host the Victory Dance in Hangar 1, June 2. The Victory Dance is the traditional social event for the games.

Three Olympic centers will also be stood up at JBLM Lewis Main and Lewis North.

"Main Street," one of two centers at JBLM Lewis Main, will be located between Cowan and Memorial stadiums. Main Street services will include everything from sponsor tents to games and health information.

The area by Watkins Field will take on more of a carnival atmosphere with games, arts and crafts, and even a petting zoo. "Olympic Town," supported by 16th CAB's 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, will be located on the corner of 6th Street and Liggett Avenue. Soldiers from 2-158 AHB will be the main supporters for both Main Street and Olympic Town.

JBLM Lewis North's "Olympic Village," located east of 17th Street between H Street and 32nd Division Drive, will center on both cycling competitions and lodging for athletes and their families and coaches.

Shuttle service between all of the venues will be provided.

According to JBLM Directorate of Emergency Services summer games guests who have not already been cleared to enter the installation can receive day passes. Pass locations will be the visitor's centers at JBLM Lewis Main's Liberty Gate and JBLM McChord Field's main gate at Jackson Avenue.

Wileczek said her job with DPTMS, one where she typically organizes garrison support for large projects, would have seen her plan this year's effort regardless, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have a personal connection to the games. Her sister Chelsea was mentally challenged and passed away more than 20 years ago.

"I remember thinking that if she was still here, she'd be a part of this," she said. "Everyone I speak to loves (the games), they come back year after year."

This year's Summer Games will be Col. Thomas Brittain's second as JBLM commander. He said he looks forward to the games both as a formal host and a fan.

"I'm very proud that JBLM is able to host the Special Olympics Washington Summer Games again this year, as part of our fourth decade of support to the event," he said. "The real payoff for JBLM is that we get yet another opportunity to be inspired by the spirit and example of these remarkable athletes."

He also said having SOWA call JBLM home to their Summer Games is a good example of how the South Sound's military presence remains strong.

"Our military community has been here since 1917; our roots are as deep in Washington soil as any of our neighboring cities and towns. By supporting the Summer Games, I feel we're simply doing our part as a partner in the region."

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