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Special games held on Sill for Special athletes

Cloudy skies and warmer temperatures than in years past made Fort Sill's ninth annual Great Plains Region Special Olympics a joyous occasion for the athletes and the Army and Marine Corps mentors who offered them support and encouragement.

Rush Springs fourth-grader Paisley Pointer, 10, was here for her third year in a row, backed not only by her parents, Debbie and Phillip Archer, but also by a three-member cheering section: Pvt. Mikayla Seiler, Pvt. Kelsay Howell and Pvt. Angel Morgan, all of Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery (ADA).

Debbie Archer said of her daughter, "She loves it. She started coming here when she was (in the) Stars (of the Future) program."

Then 8, Paisley was in the starter set of Olympians playing games in Honeycutt Gym. Last year she graduated to the outdoor level of events on Prichard Field. This year she signed up for two events, the 25-meter partner walk with her mother and the softball throw. Each of those help Paisley in specific areas, her mother explained.

After the partner walk, "she gets more active. She walks really, really fast. It helps her to walk better." The softball throw helps Paisley with her coordination and throwing ability.

The Great Plains Region Special Olympics is a qualifying round for the state Special Olympics in May, and Paisley plans to be there.

Pvt. Brittany Duplessis of Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 6th ADA, was paired up with 11-year-old Brayden Murray of Amber-Pocasset for the day. While in high school, Duplessis was part of a group called Sparkles that worked as cheerleaders for special-needs youngsters. This was her first time to help out with Special Olympics, however. She said she volunteered for it because she's in a position to help other people and she wants to support them "because we're all one big community."

"Today we've got over 530 athletes from across the Southwest Oklahoma region," said Maj. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, commanding general of Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence.

"There are very few things we do that bring in so many different groups and represent so many different parts of the community here in Oklahoma. It's a great thing to do and be a part of," Shoffner said.

The general's message to the athletes was: "Thank you for inspiring us with your bravery and your undefeatable spirit." He predicted that the supporters and spectators would be the ones who leave the field "the most inspired, most challenged and most touched by the many displays of courage and humanity that you athletes will demonstrate."

The 30th ADA Brigade and its subsidiary unit, 2nd Battalion, 6th ADA, served as lead organizations for the event.

"It takes a lot to put this on, and it's worth every minute of it," said Col. David Baxter, commander of 30th ADA Brigade. "It's an honor for us to serve all of you in creating what we hope will be a lifetime of memories for you all at this Olympiad. I wish all the athletes good luck and may you all achieve person best in your events."

The emcee of the opening ceremony was Capt. Kimberly Kopack of Bravo Battery, 2-6 ADA, but she played a different role in 2017.

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