In a recent memo from Special Olympics International to all programs worldwide, CEO Mary Davis provided updated guidance related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, her memo strongly advised that all Special Olympics activities continue to be suspended through at least the end of June, even as government restrictions begin to ease.
After consulting with the leaders of other Special Olympics programs throughout the U.S. and with our own Board of Directors, Jeff Mohler, CEO/President of Special Olympics Indiana, has decided that Special Olympics Indiana will comply with this advisement; and regrets to announce that all in-person practices, events, and social activities at all levels of the organization are to be cancelled through June 30.
“The decision was not easy”, stated Mohler. “As Governor Holcomb plans for the slow reopening of our state, I know that we are asking our athletes, coaches, families, and volunteers to be patient. But I believe Special Olympics International’s strategy is in the best interest of the people we serve.”, Mohler continued.
According to the CDC, people with intellectual disabilities (ID) or development disorders are at increased risk for contracting COVID-19. In addition, people with ID experience higher rates of chronic health conditions that also put them at higher risk of serious illness and poorer outcomes from COVID-19.
Special Olympics competitions and events are opportunities for entire communities to come together in support of our vision. But, unfortunately, that joining together poses significant risks for everyone involved.
“So let us be cautious in our approach. Let’s see if there are new spikes in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Let us keep the safety of our people first and foremost.”, said Mohler.
So what should we do for the next 2 months?
We should continue to practice social distancing. We should wash our hands properly and frequently. We should wear a face mask when at work or in public. We should be careful not to spread our germs or to touch our faces with unwashed hands.
“I know it’s difficult to be patient, but I encourage our athletes to reach out to friends, teammates, and coaches. Make sure they remain safe and healthy.” Mohler added.
Be a part of our first-ever Virtual Summer Games!
As our largest annual event, Summer Games represents the pinnacle of competition for the more than 18,000 people SOIN serves each year, with delegations from every part of the state bringing athletes to compete in a variety of our most popular sports. But the Summer Games experience transcends sports for all those involved; it is a weekend of camaraderie, inclusion, excitement, and—most of all—pure joy.
As outlined above, we will be unable to gather in Terre Haute this summer due to ongoing health concerns. But together, we can still share in the joy of Special Olympics through a Virtual Summer Games experience kicking off Friday, June 12 — the day that would have marked the start of this year’s three-day event.
Details are still being finalized but here are a few of the things we have in mind:
June 12: Virtual Law Enforcement Torch Run
live on our website or via Facebook as representatives of law enforcement agencies across the state show us what it truly means to be a “Guardian of the Flame.” Participants in this special LETR event will raise money and awareness for Special Olympics athletes across Indiana by carrying the torch while practicing social distancing in their own communities.
June 12: Virtual Opening Ceremonies
Also streaming on our website and on Facebook Live, our Virtual Opening Ceremonies will aim to inspire and unite athletes and fans across the state. Featuring many of the same elements enjoyed by thousands each year at the Hulman Center, this special event will include the singing of the national anthem, lighting of the cauldron following the arrival of the Flame of Hope, and an address by President & CEO Jeff Mohler. The evening will wrap up as it always does: with an athlete dance party where you can be a part of the fun!
June 13 – July 20: Virtual Summer Games Competition
Our first-ever Virtual Summer Games will be comprised of a sports and fitness challenge taking place over the course of five weeks, where County Programs AND individual athletes will compete for points, prizes, and awards. Challenges will feature activities that can athletes can do at home, in their neighborhoods, or in parks or other public areas as allowed and while maintaining social distancing protocols.
July 25: Virtual Closing Ceremonies and Dance
Join us online one more time for a virtual awards presentation and plenty of interactive fun as we close out the 2020 (Virtual) Summer Games in style. Winners of all Summer Games challenges will be announced before we bring together athletes from across the state for another virtual dance party.
Again, additional information and instructions will be shared as soon as they are available. In the meantime, mark your calendars for June 12 and get ready to be a part of this unique experience!