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Spring brings Special Olympics to Vandenberg

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Vandenberg Honor Guard march before the crowd during the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics here April 19, 2008. Vandenberg is scheduled to host the 2009 Special Olympics Harry Wood Area Games presented by Northern Santa Barbara County at 9 a.m. April 25 at the base track here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Vandenberg Honor Guard march before a crowd during the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics here April 19, 2008. Vandenberg is scheduled to host the 2009 Special Olympics Harry Wood Area Games presented by Northern Santa Barbara County at 9 a.m. April 25 at the base track here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Vandenberg is scheduled to host the 2009 Special Olympics Harry Wood Area Games presented by Northern Santa Barbara County at 9 a.m. April 25 at the base track here.

The event will officially begin when the Special Olympics torch is brought into the gates of Vandenberg by personnel from the 30th Security Forces Squadron and one of the local athletes.

"We expect anywhere from 100 to 150 athletes to participate in this year's Special Olympics," said Brian Zepeda, the Special Olympics sports coordinator. "We have athletes coming from Lompoc, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria, Orcutt and Guadalupe."

Numerous Vandenberg units have been planning for the arrival of the athletes since the beginning of the year. This proactive planning has helped Vandenberg recruit more than 300 volunteers to fill the roles of athlete escorts, event leads and set-up and take-down maintainers.

"We would not be able to conduct the area games meet without the support of Vandenberg and the many dedicated volunteers that support our local program," Mr. Zepeda said. "The base provides all the logistical support and volunteers needed to make the event possible."

Vandenberg supports the Special Olympics annually in an effort to build camaraderie and develop a stronger relationship with the local community.

"Vandenberg takes advantage of any opportunity to help others and give back to the community," said Capt. Aaron Basham, a 576th Flight Test Squadron test operator. "In addition to training and spending time with their family and friends, the Special Olympians get an opportunity to engage with the Air Force family of Vandenberg."

The participants will get the chance to compete in a number of events. The track events consist of running, walking and wheelchair races. The field events will include the softball throw, standing long jump, running long jump and shot put. Ribbons will be awarded to the winners of the events.

Many distinguished visitors will be present from Vandenberg, local law enforcement agencies and city council members in support of the event.

"It's nice to see how a community can come together and support a good cause like Special Olympics," Mr. Zepeda said. "It's rewarding to see the smiles on our athletes faces when they have the opportunity to go out and compete. Attending a Special Olympic event is truly a life changing experience. It is here you will see the true meaning of sportsmanship and effort."

For more information about the Special Olympics, or to find out how you can volunteer, contact Capt. Aaron Basham at (805) 276-2600 or visit the Special Olympics Web site at www.specialolympics.org.