Special Olympics rain plan hopes for sunny skies

  • Published
  • By Susan Griggs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
When the Mississippi Special Olympics takes center stage May 8-10 at Keesler, Tech. Sgt. Cameron Hickey will have his eyes to the skies, hoping his part of the planning is never implemented.

Hickey's volunteer position involves a four-letter word that no one wants to hear during the weekend - rain.

The torch run, opening ceremonies, most athletic competitions, the Olympic village booths and the victory dance are all outdoor activities. In case of inclement weather, decisions have to be made about whether an event can be moved indoors, rescheduled or cancelled.

Most of the 700 athletes from all over Mississippi look forward to Special Olympics all year, and the decision to cancel any of the activities is taken very seriously.
"It was funny to realize that we put in so much work with the hopes that it never gets implemented," Hickey pointed out. "A bright sunny day would be great news for everyone involved."

Hickey, an instructor in the 335th Training Squadron, reports that over the past four years, at least a portion of the rain plan has been executed at some time during the weekend. Last year, the opening ceremony with the parade of athletes was cancelled due to a thunderstorm.

"I think the main thing to consider is that this is a contingency plan that, at least in recent years, might as well have just been 'the plan,'" said Hickey. "We must also consider the amount of moving pieces and how big of an event this is for the athletes, so you have to do your best to remain calm and ensure that it's a positive experience for all those involved."

Hickey was introduced to Special Olympics 11 years ago when he and his wife sponsored athletes for the weekend while they were at Keesler for technical training.
"I found it to be a very rewarding experience that has definitely stuck with me over the years," he commented. "So when I was asked if I'd be interested in facilitating this year's Olympics, I jumped at the opportunity."

Hickey said if a potential Special Olympics volunteer is nervous about making the commitment, "I would absolutely encourage them to go all in. Get involved and find out how rewarding it is to be involved in this program. Seeing the joy and happiness of the athletes is reason enough."

His motivation to give back to the base and local community has been bolstered by working with Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 652 to support Fisher House, the Armed Forces Retirement Home, the USO and other organizations. He is also involved with the Keesler 5/6 in planning this year's Dragon Challenge to benefit Fisher House.

Hickey is also part of Nspire Nation, an organization that sponsors charitable events and hosts leadership development programs. The group's leader, Glenn Davis, has a quote that Hickey believes has significance for Keesler's Special Olympics volunteers - "When put in a position to lead, lead with a purpose. When put in a position to follow, follow with a purpose to lead."