Staying active and connected with Special Olympics throughout the pandemic

SOBC - Victoria Zoom Room
Athletes staying active and connected with the SOBC – Victoria Zoom Room led by coaches Susan Simmons and Kyle Eriksen.

Special Olympics BC uses the power and joy of sport to enrich the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and create inclusive communities. But that mission has been exceedingly challenged over the last year, due to the pandemic’s impact on the year-round SOBC programs in 55 communities across the province, which are the heart and soul of our movement.

During the pandemic, we have been reminded time and again just how important our weekly programs are to all 5,200+ SOBC athletes. Not only do they provide a healthy active lifestyle and skill-building opportunities, but they also provide a community and important social network, which improves mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Where local conditions allow, Special Olympics BC programs are currently offering very small in-person adult sport training opportunities, as well as youth programs. Programs are following all provincial health requirements and the safety protocols in SOBC’s slow, phased Return to Sport Plan. SOBC is supplementing the limited in-person opportunities with virtual opportunities to train and connect, such as at-home training and wellness challenge calendars and health education events.

Many Special Olympics athletes, coaches and volunteers have accepted the challenge of this new normal, and as a result, have found new ways to remain connected and active within their communities. 

Some recent stories:

SOBC – Victoria coaches Susan Simmons and Kyle Eriksen have been leading powerful daily Zoom Room workouts and conversations, featured in the Times Colonist

“‘It was something I felt they needed, to have a place to connect with each other socially and share any challenges they were having,’ Simmons said. … 

‘I met people I never knew before from all over the Island,’ athlete Lisa Newell said. She was particularly proud when she and other athletes completed 500 squats in one night, a goal everyone worked up to over weeks, as Simmons upped the number of squats each night. ‘I’d like to keep the Zoom Room f forever.’ …

‘We have this virtual community, but it’s gone beyond that,’ Simmons said. ‘This is a group of people holding one another together.’

Simmons said the Zoom chats have also helped her mental health.

‘It’s the light at the end of my day,’ she said. ‘The folks in Special Olympics are the light in the world. They bring the joy, the innocence, the purity that we all need. They bring love with them everywhere they go.’”

SOBC – Smithers athlete Torben Schuffert and mom/coach Sandra Schuffert spoke with the Smithers Interior News about their efforts to stay healthy and connected with virtual programs from SOBC and their Local

“What I think is quite amazing, is what you actually can do during the pandemic,” Sandra said. “I would have never thought that Torben could participate in a program throughout the year with everyone in B.C.

“I think we have to look at some of the positive things that are happening right now.”

SOBC – Kelowna athlete Kassidy Rutledge and her sister Kimberly, a mental wellness educator and SOBC volunteer, spoke with the Kelowna Capital News and Global Okanagan about their efforts to stay active and healthy, and to support others

“I stay fit so that when I do go back to my sports I’m ready,” Kassidy said.

Find Special Olympics BC's resources for staying active, connected, positive, and informed