HomeNewsFeaturesDisplay

Connecticut's Air Guardsmen support Special Olympics

Michael Finlay of Boston Mass., welcomes applause from the crowd during the Special Olympics March 4, 2012. Finlay was one of many athletes who took part in the figure skating event at the international skating center in Simsbury, Conn. Several members of the Connecticut Air National Guard volunteered to help staff the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airmen 1st Class Emmanuel Santi-ago/Released)

Michael Finlay of Boston Mass., welcomes applause from the crowd during the Special Olympics March 4, 2012. Finlay was one of many athletes who took part in the figure skating event at the international skating center in Simsbury, Conn. Several members of the Connecticut Air National Guard volunteered to help staff the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airmen 1st Class Emmanuel Santi-ago/Released)

Senior Airman Christopher Keogan of the 103rd Air Operations Group awards a medalist at the Special Olympics March 4, 2012, held at the international skating center in Simsbury, Conn. Several members of the Connecticut Air National Guard volunteered to help staff the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airmen 1st Class Emmanuel Santiago/Released)

Senior Airman Christopher Keogan of the 103rd Air Operations Group awards a medalist at the Special Olympics March 4, 2012, held at the international skating center in Simsbury, Conn. Several members of the Connecticut Air National Guard volunteered to help staff the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airmen 1st Class Emmanuel Santiago/Released)

SIMSBURY, Conn. -- Our natural instincts at sporting events are to keep scores and stats. The energy and thrill of competition broken down into quantitative components that fit well with our sensibilities as spectators. That's usually what one expects from sporting events, but this was not just any sporting event--this was the Special Olympics.

Members of the 103 Airlift Wing volunteered again to assist with this year's Special Olympics held at the International Skating Center, Simsbury, Conn., March 4, 2012. What I learned today was that the Special Olympics represent all the other fundamentals of sports that we all too often forget.

"The Special Olympics gives these [athletes] the opportunity to make friends. It's a big social event for them," said Rose Kalisz, coach for the Regional Hebron Andover Marlborough (RHAM) team.

Chris Anderson, assistant coach for RHAM, said he is involved, "...to see the enjoyment and the smiles on the faces of the athletes. They look forward to it every year."

Many of the athletes, partners, coaches, and volunteers have been involved with the Special Olympics for years. Most were connected to the sporting event through siblings, sons, and daughters who have become Special Olympiads. Kalisz became involved when her son, now 21, joined the Special Olympics. Though her son no longer competes, Kalisz has stayed with the program and has brought in many other students from RHAM High School who work with the athletes as partners. The students have in turn enlisted many of their own friends, attesting to the infectiousness of the Special Olympics.

One of RHAM's 500m speed skaters, Louis Sanchez, has been competing in the Special Olympics for 13 years. For Sanchez, a Hartford native, the Special Olympics is a place where he can be involved in something positive and said, "it keeps me off the streets."

The magic of the Special Olympics has not eluded many of our fellow Airmen here at Bradley Air National Guard Base who had the opportunity to volunteer and help staff the event. Senior Airman Chris Keogan of the 103rd Air Operations Group volunteered with the Griswold High School Special Olympics team when he was in high school.

"When I received the e-mail looking for volunteers I jumped on the opportunity," said Keogan.

Volunteers also included trainees of the 103rd Yankee Flight who all said they wanted to give back to the community. For Student Flighter Layau Eulizier it was all about the Air Force's core values.

"It's a matter of service before self," Eulizier said. "This is what we signed up for."

At the end of the event, Michael Finlay, a figure skater from Boston, Mass., performed his final routine. In sports or in life, we often talk of what can be accomplished with what we have. But as Finlay twirled and jumped over the ice it proved to be a true testament to what man can achieve; not through what we do with the things we have, but what we can achieve despite what we do not.