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Keesler hosts 32nd annual Special Olympics

The torch flame burns during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games opening ceremony at the Training Levitow Training Support Facility drill pad at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 11, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

The torch flame burns during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games opening ceremony at the Training Levitow Training Support Facility drill pad at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 11, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Special Olympics Summer Games 2018

Area 17 volleyball team competes against Area 18 during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the Blake Fitness Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andre' Askew)

Special Olympics Summer Games 2018

Arkeonna Robinson, Area 11 athlete, pulls ahead of Kaylynne Boyd, Area 18 athlete, in the 50 meter run during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the Triangle Track at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Travis Beihl)

Tashanna Johnson, Area 10 athlete, competes in the javelin throw during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the at the Triangle Track at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Tashanna Johnson, Area 10 athlete, competes in the javelin throw during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the at the Triangle Track at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Cassidy Gamblin, Area 16 athlete, competes in the running long jump during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the Triangle Track at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Cassidy Gamblin, Area 16 athlete, competes in the running long jump during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the Triangle Track at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Henry Harris, Special Olympics Mississippi tennis director, tosses a ball to Shaquille Williams, Area 7 athlete, during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the tennis courts at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andre' Askew)

Henry Harris, Special Olympics Mississippi tennis director, tosses a ball to Shaquille Williams, Area 7 athlete, during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the tennis courts at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andre' Askew)

Lauren Smith, Area16 athlete,  competes in power lifting competition during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the Triangle Fitness Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andre' Askew)

Lauren Smith, Area16 athlete, competes in power lifting competition during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the Triangle Fitness Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andre' Askew)

Special Olympics Mississippi athletes compete in the 15m walk during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the Biloxi Natatorium at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Keesler hosted more than 3,200 athletes, directors, coaches, family members and volunteers spanning over 16 regions across Mississippi for the 32st year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Travis Beihl)

Special Olympics Mississippi athletes compete in the 15m walk during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the Biloxi Natatorium at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Keesler hosted more than 3,200 athletes, directors, coaches, family members and volunteers spanning over 16 regions across Mississippi for the 32st year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Travis Beihl)

Special Olympics Summer Games 2018

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Julie Botroff, 81st Medical Group superintendent, hugs Lori Spooner, Area 1 athlete, after presenting her with a medal for the 50 meter run during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the Triangle Track at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Travis Beihl)

Special Olympics Summer Games 2018
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Airman Basic Austin Kleckner, 334th Training Squadron student, pushes Roderick Smith, Area 7 athlete, in the 10 meter assisted wheelchair race during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games at the Triangle Track at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Special Olympics Mississippi Summer Games 2018
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Bill Smith, Area 6 athlete and U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicholas James, 335th Training Squadron accept the trophy for 3rd place dorm decorating contest from Col. C. Mike Smith, 81st Training Wing vice commander, during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games closing ceremony at the Levitow Training Support Facility drill pad at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Special Olympics Mississippi Summer Games 2018
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U.S Air Force Airmen dance with Special Olympics athletes during the Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games closing ceremony at the Levitow Training Support Facility drill pad at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 12, 2018. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics hosts sporting events around the world for people of all ages with special needs to include more than 700 athletes from Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

The Special Olympics Mississippi 2018 Summer Games was held on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi May 11-13.


More than 3,000 athletes, directors, coaches, family members and volunteers spanning more than 16 regions across Mississippi, attended to celebrate 32 years of Special Olympics events at Keesler.


The three-day-event started with the athlete arrivals May 11, followed by the opening ceremony and Flame of Hope torch run. After a night of rest, the athletes, accompanied by two Airman sponsors, enjoyed a full day of sporting events to include running, bowling, javelin, volleyball, swimming and numerous other events.


“This year’s summer games was hot but it was awesome,” said Jackie Pope, Special Olympics Mississippi Summer Games co-project officer. “We had almost 800 athletes arrive on Friday. We had great weather and I believe all the athletes had a great time.”


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 20 years and believes Keesler is leading the way in community partnership.


“I think Keesler is a perfect model of community partnership with SOMS,” said Pope. “It’s been over 32 years that this partnership has been in place and I believe we have set a great standard on what it’s like to have a community partnership.”


Several groups and communities united to put this event together for the athletes of Mississippi.


“What’s most impressive about the games is the change we see in the Airman sponsors from Friday to Sunday,” said Pope. “On day one they might be a little nervous and apprehensive but by Saturday night, the bond between the athlete and Airmen have evolved into something amazing.”