Suzie Schaible at tennis

Special Olympics athlete Suzie Schaible gets some tennis practice in during the 2016 season.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic that has taken over not only the United States, but the entire world, the Special Olympics Delaware announced on Tuesday, March 31, that it was cancelling its 2020 Summer Games. The Games were scheduled to take place at the University of Delaware over two days from June 12-13.

Executive Director Ann Grunert sent out a letter to its members and supporters of the SODE organization in which she stated, “In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, we wanted to take a moment and thank each and every one of you for understanding the difficult decisions that have been made to date. Cancelling our fundraising and sports events and the many planning and training gatherings that often happen leading up to them is truly disappointing for everyone. The reality for us is, nothing is more important than your health and safety.

Grunert went on to explain that during the uncertain times that the state is facing due to the COVID-19 virus, “we have made the difficult decision to cancel” the 2020 Special Olympics Summer Games. With the cancelling of the Games, all of the festivities that lead up to the event have also been canceled, which includes the Torch Run.

The decision to cancel was made after careful consideration with the health and safety of those involved in the Games, including the athletes, their parents, the sponsors, and other SODE members. The restrictions that have been put in place by the State of Delaware with regards to “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” made it “impossible for our athletes and teams to properly train leading up to the games,” Grunert added.

Following the difficult decision to cancel the Games, Grunert and the Special Olympics organizers will be turning their attention towards the plans for its 50th anniversary celebrations. There are many activities currently planned to help celebrate the momentous occasion.

The plan was to launch the festivities for the 50th anniversary, the plan now is to start celebrating once things settle down with the virus, and everyone can get back together. Among the plans in the works are the unveiling of the 50th anniversary medals and ribbons, which have bee designed especially for the Delaware Special Olympics. These medals and ribbons are going to be awarded to all the athletes during state competitions throughout the 2020-21 season.

There is also talk about doing a virtual walk/run/bike/roll challenge that will be open to all SODE athletes, coaches, families, volunteers, and friends. A School of Strength and Fit 5 have already started to help the athletes focus on their health and training initiatives, which they can still sign up by going to www.sode.org.

“So, while we are facing the disappointment of not having a Summer Games this year, we can be thankful that there is a lot to look forward to once this situation is behind us,” Grunert added in her letter to its members and supporters. “Throughout this process, while working to ensure the safety of our athletes, coaches, volunteers, supporters and our entire SODE family, we have realized how much we appreciate each of you and your dedication to our mission – to bring individuals with intellectual disabilities out from behind closed doors and into a community of acceptance and respect. Thank you for being such a valuable partner in this effort."

The Special Olympics’ 2020 Summer Games were set to feature the athletes and their Unified partners competing in six sports - bocce, powerlifting, softball, swimming, tennis, and track & field - and a Motor Activity Training Program demonstration over the two days.

Staff Reporter

Jason has been in journalism for 20 years. He moved to Coastal Delaware in August 2017 with his wife, Jessica, and their daughters, Kylie, 17, and Grace, 12. He has a passion for high-school sports and especially values the relationships that builds.