From Monday, June 1 to Sunday, June 7, nearly 1,000 athletes, Unified partners, and coaches from across New Jersey registered and had the opportunity to train and competed in a modified version of the annual Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ) Summer Games. Participants in this year’s Virtual Summer Games competed in 24 sport-related activities across five sports: bocce, gymnastics, powerlifting, tennis, and track & field.
On Friday evening, June 5, at 7:30 p.m. (the time when Summer Games Opening Ceremony would have typically taken place), the Virtual Summer Games Ceremony, hosted by Jack Ford, debuted and can be seen at sonjsummergames.org.
Although it was not meant to “open” the games, the video highlighted many traditional elements of Opening Ceremony like the Parade of Athletes, Law Enforcement Torch Run, and messages of support from local dignitaries and fans in the stands.
“It was amazing to see the comradery and display of Genuine Jersey Pride throughout the week as our athletes, partners, coaches, volunteers, and supporters came together virtually to celebrate.” said Heather Andersen, President and CEO of SONJ. “While we can never truly replace the immeasurable experiences that come from participating in our annual Summer Games, this was a safe, fun way for our entire community to come together.”
Summer Games is the marquee event of the year for SONJ, bringing together thousands of athletes and partners, coaches and volunteers, youth leaders, family members, year-round corporate partners and supporters. While missing this year was certainly disappointing and the impact can never truly be measured, SONJ vows to come back stronger than ever.
“Together we are an incredibly resilient group of people and will come out on the other side even stronger! We are proud, we are strong, and we are better together. We are Special Olympics New Jersey!” Colleen Ciecura, SONJ athlete and Athlete Input Council (AIC) Chairperson.
In addition to virtual competition, registered Young Athletes™ had the opportunity to engage in multiple sport and educational activities, while family members, friends, and supporters were encouraged to volunteer as virtual “Fans in the Stands” to cheer on and celebrate all the amazing Virtual Summer Games participants. Healthy Athletes also offered insight into each of the seven disciplines of Health Promotion, Opening Eyes, Special Smiles, Healthy Hearing, FUNFitness, Fit Feet, and Medfest.
The Annual Law Enforcement Torch Run, which usually takes place the Friday leading up to Summer Games, was postponed and is planned to run on Friday, October 9. More information and updates can be found at www.njtorchrun.org.