Special Olympics volunteer wears many hats

  • Published
  • By Susan Griggs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
For the past eight years, Tech. Sgt. Billy Wince has been passionate about his commitment to the Mississippi Special Olympics Summer Games at Keesler. In spite of several physical and personal challenges, his boundless enthusiasm and can-do spirit have inspired countless volunteers to share their talents and energy with the annual event, now in its 40th year.

Keesler will host the games for the 29th time May 8-10, and Wince will be in the heart of the action wherever he's needed ... chairing the awards committee, helping to coordinate operations or offering medical support.

Wince, a bioenvironmental engineering technician in the 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron, has been at Keesler for more than 15 years on active duty, following 12 years in the reserve.

His involvement with Special Olympics is rooted in "a belief of involvement, the enjoyment of making a positive difference in life, and working with an amazing community of volunteers who want to create a special moment for our athletes."

"Some folks rush in like a hurricane at the last moment and save the day," said Capt. Joshua Tate, 335th Training Squadron, one of the project officers. "With Billy, you could have a question for next year the day after this year's games are over and he'll start working it for you and come up with a resolution."

Tate stated that when it comes to coordinating with the 403rd Wing for support or anything on the flight line, Wince is the go-to guy.

"He's fully committed to ensuring the entire games are a success," Tate pointed out. "You'll find him helping with logistics, transportation and the procurement of water buffaloes, ice coolers and trucks. He's even solicited support from home improvement stores so we can have plywood, paint and other tools to make the games happen."

"Last year, for example, Billy was helping me run all over Biloxi for tables, chairs and other items to ensure the games went as planned," the captain added.

Jackie Pope, 81st Force Support Squadron, is another project officer that marvels at Wince's skills in solving problems quickly.

"We were talking at last week's Special Olympics kickoff luncheon about the need for a bus that can accommodate wheelchairs," Pope recalled. "The next day, Billy called and said the Veterans Affairs Medical Center had made three of these buses available for us. It's just like magic!"

Wince tries to recruit new volunteers by showing them the Special Olympics video from the previous year and explaining how important their involvement is for the athletes, the Air Force and the Keesler community.

"Then I describe what the competitions look like on event day as the fields are filled with athletes, with volunteers cheering and competitors showing their best," he explained.

His favorite Special Olympics memory so far is from last year's games.

"The weather was threatening to cancel Special Olympics, but God must have heard our prayers," he recalled. "The sky opened over Keesler and the rain stopped. So with support from the 403rd Wing and 81st FSS and some quick rearranging, we were able to complete all of the events throughout the day."

During Special Olympics in 2011, he was having serious back problems but worked through the pain and was able to delay surgery until July. Five months later, he suffered a stroke.

"I thank God that I only suffered short-term memory problems," he remarked. "I was released from the hospital in January 2012 and was determined to continue my support of Special Olympics."

His volunteerism doesn't stop with Special Olympics. He also chaired the 81st Medical Group's children's Christmas party, coordinated his squadron's cookout, served as a driver with Airmen Against Drunk Driving and was involved with efforts to support March of Dimes, American Heart Association, Project Cheer, Operation Hero, Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity.

Wince said it may be his last year to work with Special Olympics, because he will probably be medically discharged by the end of the year, but insisted, "No matter what happens, the Keesler community is my family, my team and my home."