Athletes compete at the 2023 Special Olympics Summer Games

‘Inclusion and Beyond’ was the theme of the 2023 Special Olympics Summer Games at Keesler Air Force Base over the weekend.

It’s been nothing but fun and smiles at the 2023 summer games featuring over 500 athletes from across Mississippi. Installation Project Officer Aaron De La Cruz said, “This is the 35th year and Keesler has historically been the host tenant. It is a partnership that has been tremendously important to the local community and the entire state of Mississippi.”

Chief Jeremy Phillips of the 81st Training Group says this was a great team building exercise for Team Keesler. “We pair up two airmen with every athlete and it’s just, again, just to make sure that our athletes get where they need to get and they just help cheer them on and mentor them during their time here.”

Col. Billy Pope said, “How can you not have a smile on your face when you get to see the athletes and celebrate their success and the families. It’s a pretty special day.”

Athlete ‘Cowboy’ John Walker tells News 25 what his favorite part about competing in the summer games is. “Being with the military, being on the base, getting away a little bit to spend time with them, and having fun, having a great time.”

Col. Billy Pope says the Special Olympics is one of the highlights of his job. “When you get to see the accomplishment of each one of these athletes and you see the pride and the fun in their expressions, I don’t think it gets any better than that.”

“Our airmen are super excited and motivated. The smiling faces everywhere with both the athletes and the airmen near that are able to help out. It’s fantastic.”

Team Keesler and athletes are already looking forward to next year’s summer games.

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