South Burlington, VT – March 11, 2020
Following guidance from Special Olympics International, Special Olympics Vermont (SOVT) announced that the upcoming Winter Games, scheduled for March 22-24 at Killington Pico Resort, as well as the Unified Champion Schools Snowshoe Tournament, scheduled for March 25, are cancelled, in an effort to ensure the health and safety of its athletes, coaches, volunteers, staff and families.
The Southern Vermont Penguin Plunge at Bromley Mountain will be restructured to allow both a physical and virtual event. More information regarding this will be shared at a later date.
Special Olympics International’s recommendation was based on information from the Centers for Disease Control, and the understanding that many Special Olympics athletes, as well as some coaches and volunteers are a higher risk population due to underlying health conditions that contribute to suppressed immune systems. SOVT also consulted with the Vermont Department of Health and various health professionals, and determined that the close quarters of interior spaces and lodging at these events would make it difficult to enforce social distancing as recommended by the CDC.
“The health and safety of our athletes, and of the entire Special Olympics Vermont community is paramount and cannot be compromised,” said SOVT President & CEO Missy Siner Shea. “It is very unfortunate that, in an abundance of caution, we must cancel events that we greatly look forward to each year.”
Special Olympics Vermont recognizes that cancelling these important and fun events is truly disappointing for the athletes who have trained for months to prepare for these competitions. Coaches, volunteers, family, friends, and our SOVT staff and board will be sad to miss the chance to support and cheer for them. Still, the shared love of sport doesn’t compare to the importance of protecting the health and safety of the Special Olympics Vermont community.
COVID-19 has multiple implications for SOVT. The financial impact to a non-profit largely dependent on fundraising events and philanthropic donations may be significant. Even more importantly, one of the benefits of Special Olympics programming is to bring athletes out of social isolation and into active, inclusive communities that promote both physical and emotional health. Special Olympics Vermont encourages athletes to stay active and exercise at home, and is working on virtual engagement opportunities. Those who would like to send positive, uplifting messages to Winter Games athletes who are no longer able to compete, are encouraged to share their support via social media by tagging SOVT and using the hashtag #cheer4SOVT, or by emailing [email protected]