Special Olympics RI kicks off another year of virtual summer games


SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) ─ For the second year in a row, Special Olympics Rhode Island’s State Summer Games are being held virtually.

But Dennis DeJesus, the head of Special Olympics Rhode Island, tells 12 News there will still be plenty of opportunities for athletes to safely compete.

No events are being held at the University of Rhode Island this year, however, there will be some live sporting events at the Special Olympics Rhode Island’s headquarters in Smithfield.

DeJesus said planning for the State Summer Games is a 12-month process. With the uncertainty of the pandemic, he said there was no way they’d be able to confidently organize an in-person event.

“When you talk about resiliency, all of us could take a lesson from the athletes of Special Olympics Rhode Island,” DeJesus said. “What they’ve gone through over the past 15 months, periods of isolation and loneliness, they’ve battled through it.”

The virtual games began Friday night with a downsized Opening Ceremony led by 12 News anchor Mike Montecalvo.

The Opening Ceremony included the Parade of Athletes, Torch Run and a variety of guest speakers. The cauldron was lit by South Kingstown Police Officer Frank Matarese and athletes Ian Shepherd and Heather O’Sullivan.

Matarese tells 12 News he hopes to travel with Shepherd and O’Sullivan to Russia for the Special Olympics 2022 World Winter Games.

In memory of athletes who have passed away over the past couple of years, Special Olympics Rhode Island set up a special memorial wall outside of its headquarters, which will be on display throughout the weekend.

After the ceremony, athletes took part in a virtual dance party. The competitions are scheduled to take place from 10-11 a.m. Saturday.

12 News is a proud sponsor of the Special Olympics Rhode Island’s 2021 Virtual Summer Games.

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