Story by 1LT Pawel Puczko on 04/08/2019South Texas Special Olympics athletes performed the opening ceremony for the 2019 Spring Games alongside the Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) in the Flour Bluff area of Corpus Christi, April 6.
More than 400 athletes arrived at Flour Bluff High School Saturday morning to compete in the games, escorted by friends and family, and local Sailors and Marines from Training Air Wing (TW) 4.
CNATRA Rear Adm. Greg Harris, along with a dozen officers from across the command, took part in the opening ceremony and led athletes in a procession around the track. The crowd cheered and waved as their athletes passed by.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for us to give back to the community of Corpus Christi," said Harris. "The local area supports the military so much and everything we do on base, it's an honor to support these athletes with the Special Olympics and give our thanks back."
The opening ceremony began at 9 a.m. with a brief introduction of each competing region. The athletes walked hand in hand with CNATRA officers, ready to compete. Despite a few nervous looks, most of the athletes were clearly excited to be able to compete in their events. Commodore, TW 4 Capt. Kevin Delano escorted athletes from Ingleside, Texas, reassuring them to do their best and to have fun.
"It has been overwhelming to see the joy this event brings to the kids and the smiles on their faces," said Delano.
The athletes had the opportunity to take part in various track and field events. Some of the young athletes played a vital role in the opening ceremonies as well. Rolland Garza was the last athlete to run with the torch and was responsible for lighting the ceremonious flame. Many athletes trained for months prior to the competition, and all of them left with a ribbon or medal that day.
"Just to see how excited they are to compete, to see the look on their faces and how thrilled they are to meet you, it's inspirational," said Lt. Col. Brian Dennis, executive officer of Training Squadron 35. "It makes me thankful to be a part of this community and that I could be a part of such a special event."
Special Olympics events provide an invaluable stepping stone of accomplishment for all athletes who participate. This kind of event offers an opportunity for Sailors and Marines to get out and talk to youth in the local community and perhaps inspire them to find their dreams and reach for the sky.
CNATRA, headquartered in Corpus Christi, trains the world's finest combat quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a naval force that is where it matters, when it matters.