SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Special Olympics Rhode Island’s 2020 State Summer Games were called off this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it won’t stop the athletes from celebrating this weekend.
For 52 years, Special Olympics Rhode Island has provided athletes with intellectual disabilities a chance to shine by showing off their athletic skills, while also building life-long friendships.
That’s what made canceling the annual event a difficult decision, according to the head of Special Olympics Rhode Island Dennis DeJesus.
“Many of our athletes have underlying conditions and the risk of them contracting COVID-19 was the reason why we suspended the in-person games,” DeJesus said, adding that the safety of the athletes is their top priority.
Even though the traditional summer games won’t take place at the University of Rhode Island this year, Special Olympians are still celebrating the weekend virtually.
DeJesus said throughout the weekend, athletes will be able to participate in a variety of activities from the comfort of their own homes.
“We’re so thrilled to come up with this idea, and then bring something really, really special to the athletes at a time when they really need some type of an outlet like this to celebrate being part of this great organization,” DeJesus said.
The virtual games began Friday night and will end with a virtual dance party Saturday night. All activities and ceremonies will be broadcast live on the Special Olympics Rhode Island website and Facebook page.
Eyewitness News anchor Mike Montecalvo is serving as the master of ceremonies for the virtual games.