Special Olympics RI CEO ‘very confident’ athletes will have safe sporting opportunities this year

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SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Even though Special Olympics Rhode Island’s 2021 Summer Games were called off for the second year in a row due to the pandemic, athletes will still have the opportunity to compete this year.

“The time has come,” Dennis DeJesus, the head of Special Olympics Rhode Island said. “I think we feel very confident that we can provide safe sporting opportunities for our athletes.”

DeJesus said while there won’t be any events held at the University of Rhode Island this summer, they do plan to host virtual games and some live sporting events in Smithfield.

He also said this spring, they will offer walking clubs, alternate shot golf and track and field, as well as other live events that athletes can participate in at a safe distance.

“One of the concerns we have is, ‘Will they be in shape to participate?’ Because they’ve been sitting on the couch for about a year,” DeJesus said with a chuckle.

With more than 4,000 athletes in Rhode Island, the biggest concern is safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said people with intellectual disabilities are at a higher risk for severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19.

While Special Olympics athletes are not required to get the COVID-19 vaccine to participate, it is highly recommended.

“Many of our athletes have already received the vaccine, but for the most part, guidance comes from Special Olympics International,” DeJesus said. “But we also have to follow the guidelines outlined by our state.”

DeJesus said Special Olympics Rhode Island is also planning to host an event in about seven months called “The Day of Celebration.” They have also pushed this year’s “Super Plunge” to the first week of December in hopes that the world will be in a much better place.

“Our athletes have overcome obstacles in their past before they will overcome this, and when they return to play, we will see those big, bright smiles again,” DeJesus said.

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