Every May, the country’s largest Special Olympics track and field competition typically takes place in Stillwater, Oklahoma. However, like many things, COVID-19 has changed those plans this year.
Special Olympics Oklahoma is hosting its first ever virtual summer games this year.
“The state has done an amazing job of trying to make it as fun as possible from a virtual platform,” Yukon Special Olympics coach and teacher Renee Shoaf said.
Instead of coming together in Oklahoma State’s Gallagher Iba Arena, a virtual opening celebration was held Wednesday. The organization is sharing a play by play of events that would usually be happening, encouraging athletes to stay in shape and connect with friends online.
“This was an extremely difficult decision to make, and we know this is a great disappointment for the entire Special Olympics Oklahoma family, but the safety of the athletes, coaches, volunteers and staff remain our primary concern,” the organization said in a statement.
Athletes, coaches and volunteers said it is still hard to replace being in Stillwater with around 6,000 of your closest friends.
“It's just this huge community,” Unified Partner volunteer Lois Garner said. “It's like a massive family, everyone who's there absolutely loves it it's one of the most supportive environments I've ever been in.”
Garner is a senior at Yukon High School. She’s been volunteering with Special Olympics for 10 years. This year’s summer games would have been her last as a “partner.”
“I love it, I have a passion for the kids,” she said.“It means so much to them and their families and it makes a difference in our lives too.”
To follow this year’s virtual celebration, click here.