PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The head of Special Olympics Rhode Island said the biggest challenge for the state’s 4,000 athletes right now is isolation.
But on Friday night, Dennis DeJesus shared some exciting news – the 2020 State Summer Games will still take place this year. The games were originally canceled in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
After much consideration, DeJesus said Special Olympics R.I. has decided to hold the games virtually during the weekend of May 29-31.
“We’re going to light the cauldron. We’re going to have opening ceremonies. We’re going to have athlete participation during the weekend,” he said.
DeJesus said the virtual games will be hosted at the organization’s headquarters in Smithfield.
“On Saturday night, like we’ve done down at URI, we’re going to have the athlete dance. We have a DJ ready to go. We’re going to have music ready to pump,” DeJesus said. “We’re going to have a virtual state summer games and bring that to every home of each of our athletes.”
DeJesus said the organization is excited about this development, adding staff is busy working to figure out the logistics. “So many different things we’re thinking through right now,” he said during an interview Friday.
Eyewitness News Anchor Mike Montecalvo will serve as the master of ceremonies for the virtual games.
“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.
Cote David – a member of the Wampanoag Warriors team for Special Olympics Rhode Island – said he misses his teammates, as they are forced to socially distance.
Cote is a freshman at Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School, where he is also part of a unified team. But with school closed due to the pandemic, he isn’t able to participate in that either.
“Those are his friends who he hangs out with, has fun with,” Tammy David, Cote’s mom, said. “And, it’s exercise, which it’s important, which he needs to do. We’re missing it.”
During this time of uncertainty, Tammy has created ways to keep her son learning and motivated at home.
“We made up a cafe. A breakfast and lunch cafe. We made a little menu,” she explained. “We put it out on Facebook, and everybody was ordering from the menu. So we were taking orders. I was writing them down, and Cote was figuring out the math on how much it would cost them.”
DeJesus said his organization has weekly phone calls with athletes on Tuesday nights, and ones with families on Thursday nights in order to make sure they’re doing alright during this difficult time.
Tammy said her family is managing the distance learning and the lack of activity for Cote, who told us, “I miss everybody. I hope they’re doing well.”
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