DARTMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) – It’s a weekend athletes in Special Olympics Massachusetts look forward to, and train for, all year long. The statewide Special Olympics Mass. Summer Games are always held in June, to much fanfare, on the campus of Harvard University. This year, that didn’t happen – at least in that format.
Due to COVID-19, the athletes couldn’t compete in person doing gymnastics, power lifting, swimming, tennis and volleyball. Instead, they had to get creative, competing in virtual fitness challenges on the weekend of June 13 and 14. They watched a virtual opening ceremony Friday night, June 12 to kick off the games.
Usually, police officers from each community in the Commonwealth also gather at the games to show their support and hand out awards. This year, they still found a way to show support in person. The head of the police chiefs of each county organized a torch run drive-by for the athletes. In Bristol County, that meant a drive-by in the parking lots of UMass Dartmouth. Around 10 a.m. Saturday, athletes from Whitney Academy in Freetown gathered in Lot 13 and clapped and waved as more than 45 cruisers and motorcycles from several police departments drove by, blaring their sirens in support.
“They raise a ton of money for us. The sense of community where the athletes know their police officers. They get to know them as people, not just as a badge. It’s wonderful. And to have it happen today, where this is the first time my kids have been out of the program since this all started, it’s a great way to start it off. It’s a great way to get back,” said Christin Santiago, Director of Recreational Therapy at Whitney Academy in Freetown.
For more information on how you can cheer on the athletes through their virtual games this year, and donate, click here.