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Volunteers needed to escort athletes

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --  Volunteers are needed for the northern Santa Barbara County Special Olympics games scheduled for April 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Joseph High School in Orcutt.

Although the event is no longer held at Vandenberg, base members 14 years and older are invited to help the community by volunteering to escort an athlete during the event.

"You don't have to be on active duty to help, all family members are invited to take part in this opportunity," said Capt. Amy Grant, a member of the 576th Flight Test Squadron and the volunteer coordinator.

For more than 20 years, the event was held at the base track at Vandenberg, but due to increasing security measures resulting from 9/11, the event was moved off base to encourage more participation.

"Last year the bleachers at the event were nearly empty," said Captain Grant. "By moving the event off base, we are hoping for more athlete participation and expect that more spectators will be able to attend."

In previous years the event was staffed with Airmen working as organizers and escorts. Although the games are being held in Santa Maria, Vandenberg remains highly involved, said Captain Grant.

"Vandenberg Air Force Base has been a strong supporter of Special Olympics for more than 15 years providing a great venue, equipment and volunteers," said Rudy Gutierrez, operations coordinator for the northern Santa Barbara County Special Olympics. "Vandenberg's continued support is vital in the success of area games."

Volunteers will provide set-up and tear-down crews and work as escorts. The set up and tear down is already staffed thanks to volunteers; however, 45 more volunteers are needed to fulfill the escort requirement, said Captain Grant.

In an effort to help out volunteers, the 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron will provide transportation to and from the event. The buses will depart the parade ground's here at 7:15 a.m. and will return the volunteers to the parade grounds here following the event. Kiwanis Club members will also provide free lunch for the volunteers.

"The athletes train for the competition all year," said Captain Grant. "This is our way to show our support for the athletes' hard work. It would be impossible to walk away from this event after volunteering without feeling great about what you did."
For more information, call Capt. Amy Grant or Capt. Alana Arnot at 605-6345.