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Special Olympics suspends activities to keep athletes and families safe

Posted at 11:38 AM, Mar 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-14 13:49:51-04

GREAT FALLS — Special Olympics Montana has suspended upcoming training and programs for the health and safety of their athletes and families.

“We'd much rather plan proactively,” said Cherie Bowman-Lyons who has been a volunteer for the special Olympics since 1974. Her son Matthew Lyons is 32 and has been participating with Special Olympics for 24 years now.

Before she was informed of the cancellation, she already had some concerns as a mother.

“Fifteen minutes before I gotten the notice, I was responding to an email about the state game and the planning of it and I brought up should we having practices at this point,” said Cherie and she quickly saw how this would be the right decision.

She added, “I think it was a very calm and proactive planning process in making that decision, because they always put forth, first the safety of the athletes, but not only that, the safety of volunteers.”

Special Olympics of Montana made a statement canceling all practices due to the nation-wide spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

“One of the reasons that the Special Olympics International choose to suspend games and practices because our population of athlete with intellectual disabilities cane be in a high-risk category with health issues," said Vickie Donisthorpe, Special Olympics Chief Operating Officer.

This group of individuals is also at a higher risk according to Donisthorpe.

She said, “Special Olympics athletes what has an intellectual disability often times have an underling health issues and there for puts them in a higher risk category.”

The risk isn’t just high in the public but could also affect someone right in their home.

“Our personal example, my husband had major heart surgery in December and another hospitalization in February I had a concern for Matt being at the practice and possible bringing something home to Tom in the future,” said Bowman.

They have been taking precautions themselves to help with prevention for Matt.

“We do not have him taking the public bus system we are driving him to and from work,” said Bowman.

Looking down the road they hope they can still participate in the games come May.

“(For) Matt, this is what he looks forward too every year and a lot of it is the social part of the games. You’re seeing all of the athletes from across the state,” Bowman said.

The end of March, Special Olympics of Montana plans on reevaluating the events for April and May.

Here is that statement made by the organization:

With growing concern over the Coronavirus in the U.S., it is important SOMT address upcoming training, competitions and programs for the health and safety of everyone involved.
Due to recent developments tied to the global spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), exasperated by heighten risks for people with intellectual disabilities and the elderly, Special Olympics Montana is following the advisement of Special Olympics International by suspending all sport training and competition activities and other programs involving our athletes through March 31, 2020, at which time the situation will be reevaluated. To read the full communication from Mary Davis, CEO, Special Olympics International, click here.

Letter from CEO, Mary Davis-Special Olympics International

The health and safety of our athletes, volunteers, staff, and partners remains our top priority. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this constantly changing environment while striving to make the best possible decisions based on the well-being of our athletes and all constituents at the forefront.

We sincerely appreciate your understanding

Rhonda McCarty
CEO-Special Olympics Montana