Concerns about the health of the athletes have led Special Olympics Maine to suspend all of its scheduled sport training and competition, effective immediately, because of concerns about the coronavirus.
The Maine chapter of Special Olympics and its president and CEO Philip Geelhoed, took the action at the direction of the national organization.
“We have SUSPENDED all SOME (Special Olympics Maine) sport training and competition activities through March 31,” Geelhoed said in a press release. “Prior to that date, the situation will be re-evaluated for further action.”
The decision impacts numerous sports, including the entirety of the unified basketball schedule sponsored by the Maine Principals’ Association. Other upcoming scheduled events across Maine this month had included snowshoe, floor hockey and swimming competitions and the Motor Activity Training Program.
In a memo issued on Tuesday, Mary Davis, the CEO of Special Olympics Inc., said the health, wellness and safety of the athletes and the Special Olympics community, is of the utmost importance. Given what she termed difficult and challenging times with the spread of COVID-19, the decision was made to suspend competitions.
“… We serve those who are considered part of a vulnerable population … a population where many are at a heightened risk due to age and/or compromised immune systems,” Davis said.
Special Olympics Maine said fundraising events that do not involve athletes may be held at the discretion of the respective programs, provided they assess potential health risks in collaboration with local, state and national health agencies.
“Needless to say this decision does not come as an easy one. These actions are necessary to ensure that we are doing everything we can to prevent transmission of the virus,” Geelhoed said.
Special Olympics Maine serves nearly 5,000 children and adults who have intellectual disabilities, and offers 75 events each year at the local, regional and state levels.
“Canceling events has a huge impact on our staff and volunteers who have worked so hard to organize them and is even tougher on our athletes who have been training, preparing and looking forward for weeks to compete,” said Lisa Bird, Director of Public Relations for Special Olympics Maine.
“Many of our athletes are considered to be part of a vulnerable population due to age or compromised immune systems and we are just not willing to take the chance of anyone getting sick.“
Special Olympics Maine will be offering tips and best practices for athletes to continue their training at home over the coming weeks.
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