Michael Becker, a structural engineer by profession, volunteers as Director of Operations for Douglas County Special Olympics. He also serves as lead coordinator for basketball, track & field, golf, and bowling competitions. He got involved “through marriage.” His wife and his sister-in-law recruited him to start coaching in 2013.
The mission of Douglas County Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities in the Douglas County area.
Special Olympics grew when Eunice Kennedy Shriver focused the attention of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundationon on individuals with special needs. In 1968, the first Special Olympics event took place involving teams from the United States and Canada in 200 events. Now, more that 5.3 million athletes compete from more than 170 countries.
The Douglas County Jayhawks has 97 athletes on its active roster. Ranging in age from 15-56, they participate in 18 different competitions or events, eight of which were newly-established in 2019. All of the programs are run by volunteers; they devoted 6,500 hours last year. There are regional and state level tournaments for each sport. The Young Athletes program teaches children 2-7 years old to share, take turns, follow directions, and maintain healthy habits.
The group conducts various fundraisers during the year and welcomes help from the community. Becker encourages anyone interested to get involved!
Hosub Shim discussed his research on South Korea’s involvement in the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1973. A major in the South Korean military, Shim will complete his Ph.D. in history at KU this spring and then will return to South Korea to teach history to military cadets. Shim first spoke to Lawrence Central Rotary about 3 years ago when he began his doctoral program.
Although the Vietnam War was as controversial in South Korea (ROK) as it was in the United States, South Korea had the second largest number of forces stationed there. The country found it was in their national interest to have strong ties with the United States; they leveraged their military help in exchange for U.S. assistance with strengthening their army and spurring their economy. Their involvement was a turning point to becoming a prosperous country.
South Korean troops were largely stationed on the eastern coast of Vietnam, a safe location that kept casualties low. South Korea refused to allow the U.S. to control their operations, maintaining a policy of pacification as opposed to the U.S. strategy of “search and destroy.”
Lawrence Central Rotary’s own Chip LaClair told the story of his recent tour of the aircraft carrier the USS Harry Truman.
Chip, his father, and his brother joined a small group of defense contractors who were flown out to the ship as it was underway in the open sea. Chip is a pilot himself, so the experience of landing and taking off from the deck of an aircraft carrier was quite dramatic for him. Chip described the tail hook landing mechanism and the launching catapult and proudly cited his Tail Hook Society membership credentials.
Chip was impressed with the professionalism of the crew and commented on the challenge of training and managing such a large and diverse crew on extended deployments. Chip shared souvenirs and photographs of his memorable experience.
The USS Harry Truman was built at a cost of 4.5 billon dollars and commissioned in 1998. It is taller than a 24-story building and can accommodate a crew of more than 5,000. The vessel carries 90 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and has a 1,096 foot by 257 foot flight deck. Two nuclear generators power the ship, and it can reach speeds in excess of 30 knots.
The USS Harry Truman is the flagship of Strike Group Eight, which is a group of war ships that can project military power around the globe for the interests of the United States. The ship has seen action in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf and provided hurricane relief in the Gulf of Mexico. Its home port is Norfolk, Virginia.
Cindy Bracker is a biking enthusiast! Not only is she race director for the “Tour de Lawrence,” she also races and rides regularly herself, making time between stage performances at Lawrence community theaters and running her business, Bracker’s Good Earth Clays, Inc.
Cindy reminded Rotarians that Lawrence is ranked #7 in the nation as a “bike-friendly” city. The City of Lawrence has earned this distinction by giving ongoing attention to creating “Complete Streets” and to developing the Lawrence Loop, a walking and bike trail around the city limits that will be 22 miles long when it is completed.
Lawrence Central Rotary’s sustained initiatives on behalf of biking also contributed to the recognition. In addition to running an annual Community Bike Ride each July, the Club maintains information about bicycling clubs, rides, and special events at RideLawrence.com.
Bicycle clubs in Lawrence conduct regular weekly rides of varying lengths and difficulties on various terrains. In addition, there are races and special rides taking place all year long. A number of local businesses serve bicyclists.
Diana Staresinic-Dean, director of Franklin County Historical Society, told how her research into the background of her home in Ottawa, KS, revealed intriguing history of people and places in Kansas. She promised that if people dig deep into details about a person or place in their own lives, they can uncover a network of past events that will be unfailingly interesting and sometimes significant.