The New Hampshire Special Olympics, which this year was supposed to mark its 50th anniversary, has announced it is suspending all events through at least June 19 due to the coronavirus, canceling group training and competition events for seven of its sports.
Among the Special Olympics cancellations are Area Summer Games, and the 2020 State Summer Games, as well as fundraisers and socials such as the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Competitions for basketball, swimming, track and field, bocce, power lifting, sprint triathlon and equestrian have been canceled.
“The athletes we serve, they do fall into a more vulnerable bracket, so we have made the decision not to hold any Special Olympic events through June 19,” Mary Conroy, president and CEO of Special Olympics New Hampshire said.
That includes putting a pause on 86 local programs across the state, including several in the Monadnock Region.
The Monadnock Valley Patriots, a local Special Olympics team serving athletes from the eastern Monadnock Region, participates in track and field and bocce in the summer games.
The team would have begun its practices in April, said Laura Lawlor, the team’s finance coordinator.
The team has also had to cancel its spring fundraisers, including its traditional Battle of the Badges, a basketball game where local police and firefighters play with the Monadnock Valley Patriots, which was originally scheduled for March 20, as well as all other fundraisers.
“That’s going to affect our budget for when we can have our athletes competing again,” Lawlor said.
Ethan Kennedy of Peterborough has been a participant in Special Olympics, in a variety of sports, for years, and said he was disappointed when he heard the Summer games weren’t happening.
“It’s fun, it’s free, and you get to hang out and chat with people you don’t usually see around,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy currently competes in bocce, cross country skiing and bowling. Bocce is his only event impacted by the summer cancellation.
Conroy said it wasn’t an easy decision.
“We know our athletes are a population that is sometimes more isolated than their peers. The Special Olympics is an outlet and opportunity for those athletes and volunteers to come together, socialize, train together and compete. We know how important it is in the lives of our guys, but the health and safety of our athletes is paramount,” Conroy said.
“For the athletes, it’s a good part of their whole social realm. That’s why they look forward so much to practices,” Lawlor said. “It is disappointing.”
Lawlor said having a key event to train for is a huge motivator for the athletes, and the Monadnock Valley Patriots have discussed the possibility of arranging their own area games at some point later in the summer, if the ban is lifted.
Conroy said since Special Olympics New Hampshire announced the cancellations, it has been reaching out to athletes who were anticipating competing in this summer’s games, to offer home training materials.
“The entire family of Special Olympics is working very hard to make sure we’re checking in with one another and providing the most support we can,” Conroy said.
The Tokyo Summer Olympics has also been delayed. Originally set to start in July, the event has been postponed to the summer of 2021, marking the first time the games have been postponed, though they were canceled on three previous occasions, during World War I and World War II.