324th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron hosts Special Olympics event in Sicily

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike
  • 435th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Children’s laughter filled the air as their families watched with pride during a Special Olympics event in Catania, Sicily, June 7, 2017.

The event was put together by Airmen deployed to the 324th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron located at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, to help build the relationship between U.S. service members and the host nation.

“We wanted to give back to the community and the local kids with disabilities by showing them a good time and playing sports,” said Senior Airman Tyler Horn, 324th ERS MQ-9 sensor operator and event coordinator. “We were all here to have fun, help each other out, and improve community relations with the Sicilians.”

The event saw participation from more than 60 children from multiple different schools across Catania.

“This event strikes home for me because I have a sibling with special needs and I grew up being a part of the Special Olympics back home all my life,” said Horn. “Seeing children with special needs on base inspired me to start something here that others can continue in the future.”

To kick off the event, participants and volunteers had a short parade that ended with a symbolic lighting of a flame to represent the true nature of the Olympics. During the event, children played badminton, basketball variants, soccer variants, and field hockey, while family and friends cheered them on.

After all sport events had finished, the day concluded with an award ceremony where all the participants received a special gift.

“This was the first Special Olympics event hosted by the United States military within Sicily,” said Master Sgt. Meghan Donahue, 324th ERS first sergeant. “At the end of the day all athletes were awarded a trophy, and an American flag that we have flown during one of our missions to remember it by.”

After the event had ended, Horn explained how successful he thought it was due to the smiles on all the children’s faces and his hopes for the future of the event.

“I had a great squadron and a great team that helped coordinate and run multiple aspects of this event which made it a success” said Horn. “It felt great doing this and I hope I can inspire others to promote and continue the legacy we may have started today.”