2020 Bright Spots & Looking Forward in 2021: Special Olympics Hawaii

2020 certainly presented the most complex and difficult personal and professional challenges many of us have ever faced. At the same time, out of 2020 came stories of resilience, neighbors helping neighbors, and people and organizations stepping up and coming together like never before.

As we approach the one-year mark of the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in Hawaii, we wanted to look back at uplifting moments from the past year and check in to see what our grantees are hoping for in 2021.

In this final post, we’ll share 2020 bright spots and hopes for 2021 from our grantee, Special Olympics Hawaii (SOHI).

 

Special Olympics Hawaii

 

What was one bright spot for your organization in 2020?

SOHI came through 2020 in the black and with a new perspective toward programming. Our Staff has always risen to the occasion and when in-person activities were halted, SOHI staff did not hesitate to spring into action. We quickly shifted gears to virtual fundraising and successfully applied for Cares Act funding. Staff ingenuity and determination kept our athletes and families connected and our organization funded.

SOHI created quality virtual programming with rotating health, wellness and social opportunities on a weekly basis. SOHI staff were impressed with the improvement in balance and strength we saw in the athletes who regularly attended the virtual classes! We held 2 virtual fitness competitions with seasonal practices prior to the event. Officials and coaches attended through Zoom and the competition included an inspirational Opening Ceremonies hosted by an athlete Global Messenger. The ultimate highlight of 2020 has to be when members of our Law Enforcement Torch Run surprised athletes at their homes presenting them with their awards after the competition. After months of isolation, for our athletes to be able to engage with the Law Enforcement Torch Run and recognize that they were not forgotten led to some extraordinary, memorable moments.

What is one thing you are looking forward to or hoping to accomplish as an organization in 2021?

While 2020 was a year like no other, for SOHI 2021 promises to be another year of transformation and potential. By the end of March, we will have moved into our new home in Kapolei. The Sports and Wellness Center will provide a hub for live activity with team practices, small local competitions, health exams, and education.

The return to in-person activity is most critical. Our athletes are social and thrive on routine and regular interaction with friends, teammates and coaches. SOHI has recognized that despite our efforts some athletes and their families are really struggling. It is vital they have opportunities to socialize and practice in person sooner rather than later. However, we must balance COVID-19 safety for a population that is prone to severe symptoms with the mental, social and physical impact from a year of isolation. We plan for practices to resume in June on a small scale, which will increase in scale with herd immunity as we roll out a fall sports season with outdoor sports. A long awaited and highly anticipated live State Games is planned for October.

COVID-19 has opened our eyes to the possibilities and benefits of virtual programming. Our weekly programs and messaging on social media combined with the use of Zoom has broadened our scope of connectivity. We can reach individuals with intellectual disabilities who cannot make it to live events for any of a variety of reasons – a cold, a long-term injury, extended travel, the demands on a caregiver’s time. Community is essential for our athletes’ well-being and virtual options can be a part of the solution. Once live activities return, SOHI will consider just how virtual programming will fit into our future.


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