U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Action Group (MAG) hosted its annual Special Olympics competition April 23-24.

More than 400 midshipmen volunteers were paired with athletes who competed in swim events at the Macdonough Hall pool and track and field events at Ingram Field.

This is MAG's largest community event of the year.

"The Special Olympics has been held at the Naval Academy for about as long as the Special Olympics has been around," said Jim Schmutz, president and CEO of Special Olympics Maryland. "This is a testimony to the academy, and the mission and philosophy that exists here to engage the midshipmen in a way that contributes to the greater good and the community."

Midshipman volunteers provided support to the athletes, ensuring they arrived to their events on time and cheering them on to boost morale.

"This event gives us midshipmen a large and impactful opportunity to connect with the community," said Midshipman 2nd Class Michael Ross, USNA Special Olympics project leader. "It gives us the opportunity to show not only the local community but the state that we are here to serve."

In Maryland approximately 7,311 athletes are participating in 27 different Special Olympics sports year-round, and in this event athletes earned qualification times to continue to the next level of competition at other venues statewide.

Midshipmen and athletes both benefit from the experience, said Schmutz.

"Our athletes certainly look up to the midshipmen and have a lot of respect for them, and based on what I observed, it is equally valuable to the midshipmen," he said. "The one-on-one relationship between them is priceless. I am grateful and want to thank the people here at the academy for being so dedicated to our athletes."

The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for persons eight years of age and older with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.

"I really didn't know what to expect, but it has been great," said Midshipman 2nd Class Carter Oleary, USNA Special Olympics volunteer. "I think this is an amazing program and a fun time. I think anybody out there should think about volunteering."