Keesler hosts SOMS 2017

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

Team Keesler hosted the Special Olympics Mississippi 2017 Summer Games (SOMS) for the 31st year May 19-20, on Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.

With more than 3,200 athletes, directors, coaches, family members and volunteers spanning more than 16 regions across Mississippi, this year’s events went off without a hitch.

The event kick-off with the athlete arrivals May 19, followed by the opening ceremony and Flame of Hope torch run. After a night of rest, the athletes and two Airman sponsors enjoyed a full day of sporting events to include aquatics, bocce ball, tennis, volley ball and so much more.

“Special Olympics was a huge success,” said Jackie Pope, 81st Force Support Squadron Airman and family readiness center chief and SOMS project officer. “It's always a success when all of the sport competitions are able to be completed without any interruptions and we were even able to get about 30 minutes of the victory dance in before the rain poured down.”

Since the beginning of Special Olympics in 1968, the organization has hosted sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs. Pope has been volunteering with the Special Olympics for nearly 20 years and enjoys every moment of it.

“I can't imagine not being a part of this fabulous organization,” said Pope. “It's helped me to be a better advocate and help people to see the athletes as having ‘different abilities, not disabilities’. The athletes want the same thing we want, to be happy, be shown kindness and respect.  For me, the month of May would not be complete without being a part of the Summer Games.”

With an event this large in scale, no one organization can do it alone. Several groups and communities united to put this event together for the athletes of Mississippi.

“We are just overwhelmed with the support of the communities around the state and the partnership established with Keesler,” expressed Sam Wells, the SOMS marketing and development director. “I believe it's a partnership where both parties gain a great deal. The joy on the faces of both the athletes and their Airman sponsors is why we all do what we do.”