2020 Virtual Summer Games Special Olympics Pennsylvania


When the news broke that Special Olympics Pennsylvania's sports training and competition seasons were suspended indefinitely, we were heartbroken. But instead of chalking this up to a lost year, our team and athletes and volunteers throughout the state collaborated on a way to ensure that Summer Games continued. So although we couldn’t be together in person for the Games this year, we traded in the stadiums at Penn State for sidewalks, traded in the pools for patios and proudly held the inaugural Virtual Summer Games from June 12-14, 2020. These Games enabled us to capture the spirit of our Special Olympics family by offering an Opening & Closing Ceremonies, Competition Highlights, Olympic Village activities, Healthy Athletes & Healthy Habits sessions, a Victory Dance and so much more! To discover how the weekend unfolded and just how many of you helped make this event unforgettable, keep scrolling!

#VirtualSummerGames | #WeAreSOPA

Let the games begin

At the beginning of May, Special Olympics PA announced its 2020 Virtual Summer Games, which would allow athletes and volunteers throughout the state to participate in the excitement and pageantry of Summer Games from the safety of their own homes and communities.


Richard Kropp with a good luck sign for athletes

Practice Makes Perfect

In order to prepare for the inaugural Virtual Summer Games, athletes from across the state could pick three challenges in any of the traditional Summer Games sports disciplines:

  • Athletics (10m shuttle run, 50m dash, standing long jump)
  • Basketball (bounce pass, dribble, slalom)
  • Equestrian (posting, obstacle)
  • Golf (short putt, long putt)
  • Gymnastics (plank, sit ups, straddle jumps)
  • Softball (base running, bucket toss, throw)
  • Swimming (backstroke, butterfly, freestyle)
  • Tennis (dribble down, dribble up, relay)

After selecting their challenges, athletes began training hard to perfect their skills. All the challenges were adapted to best recreate the sports experience for athletes while allowing everyone to train in a safe environment.

Zach Hicks from Area M showing off his putting skills

Welcome to the Games

After spending the better part of a month training and submitting videos and messages, the athletes and volunteers were ready for the Games to begin! Throughout the weekend of June 12-14th, we celebrated together as a Special Olympics Pennsylvania community live across all of our social media channels. Videos were live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube, where athletes and volunteers could comment on the action in real-time and share in the Virtual Summer Games experience together!

Our "Welcome to the Games" video included messages from athletes and volunteers throughout Pennsylvania as well as shout outs from various celebrities, including: Sue Paterno (Penn State University), Tim Shriver (Chairman, Special Olympics International), Mary Davis (CEO of Special Olympics International), House Majority Whip, Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, Franco Harris (Pro Football Hall of Famer), Charlene Morett-Curtiss (Penn State Field Hockey coach), Senator Bob Casey, Joe Ostman (Philadelphia Eagles), Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers) and Penn State Men's Ice Hockey.

Opening Ceremonies

On Friday, June 12th at 7 p.m., we held our Opening Ceremonies, which were co-emceed by Kellie Goodman Shaffer (Bedford County Chamber of Commerce) and Carole Ann Bollinger (an athlete from Adams County).

The 45-minute celebration included a banner carrier parade of athletes representing all of our counties, the National Anthem, sung by eight Pennsylvania athletes, memories shared by athletes and volunteers, a message from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, the Virtual "Be A Fan Torch Run," a chat with Loretta Claiborne about what the last 50 years of Special Olympics have meant to her and a video narrated by ESPN's Kevin Negandhi looking back on all we've accomplished over the last half century.

Anjali Regan & family showing off their planking skills

Healthy Athletes & Healthy Habits

Among the weekend's festivities, we wanted to ensure that athletes would still get access to the vital health services and information they receive while at Penn State in person. We hosted two sessions, Healthy Athletes and Healthy Habits, during which participants could watch, learn and ask questions of health care professionals and fellow athletes regarding their own health and wellness.

Healthy Athletes

Our Healthy Athletes, emceed by Meaghan Martin (Area P), video featured instruction in various health disciplines:

  • Special Smiles: Led by three dental students at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Dental Medicine
  • FUNfitness: Led by Dr. Kara Kobal (St. Francis University)
  • Opening Eyes: Led by Dr. Marla Moon (Nittany Eye Associates)
  • Health Promotion: Led by Jayme Galdieri (East Stroudsburg University) and Beth Holmes (AETNA)

Healthy Habits

Our Healthy Habits video, emceed by Tim Spence (Allegheny County) featured instruction from eight different Health & Fitness Coordinators throughout Pennsylvania:

  • Leanna Krogmann (Franklin County)
  • Zachary Williams (Washington/Greene)
  • Kyale Tulos (Lebanon County)
  • Troy Jackson (Bucks County)
  • Chloe Phillips (Lancaster County)
  • Nicole Huya (Warren County)
  • David Miller (Montgomery County)
  • Brittany Thayer (Bethlehem City)

Competition Highlights

As a way to celebrate everyone's incredible success in these Virtual Summer Games, we collaborated with Sports personalities and broadcasters throughout the state to bring the action to life. Five different celebrities helped us narrate highlights reels of the action as it unfolded before our very eyes.

Day 1 Highlights

Handling the competition highlights from Day 1 were: John Clark (NBC Sports Philadelphia), Steve Jones (Penn State University) and Michael Barkann (NBC Sports Philadelphia). This day's highlights also included the Unified Sports Experience, which placed people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team as they competed to see who could record the highest total score in the standing long jump!

Day 2 Highlights

And on Day 2 of our highlights, Steve Jones (Penn State University), Greg Brown (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Pat Gallen (CBS 3) called all the action.

Amanda Schaffer from Montgomery County

Olympic Village Activities

Of course, it wouldn't be a Summer Games without the fun and excitement of Olympic Village! This year, even though we couldn't gather in the Quad, we still had tons of fun gathering for Virtual Trivia (hosted by Kelsey Foster & Jordan Schubert) and Virtual Bingo (hosted by Kristin Craven & Jared Lieberman). In addition, we provided a whole host of other activities (including a tour of the Penn State Creamery, coloring books and word searches) that you can see by clicking the link below!

Olympic Village Trivia

Cherie Ramsey & team

The Results!

As with any fantastic statewide competition, everything culminated in a celebration of your success! Check out the stats below to see how wonderfully everyone did, including sport-by-sport results!

Markus Ikona from Northampton County

VSG by the Numbers:

Participants: 1,140

Counties: 46

Participants ranged from 8 to 86-years-old and the average age was 30.5 years old. We had 494 female participants and 646 male participants.

Results by Challenge (number of challenges submitted):

Joel Blazure from Bethlehem City

Closing Ceremonies

On Sunday, June 14, we officially closed the 2020 Virtual Summer Games with a program that, among other things, was emceed by Miss Central Pennsylvania, Meghan Sinisi, included highlights from the weekend, the announcement of the winner of the 2020 Sheetz Family Award of Excellence: Chester County's Lisa Robinson, prize & contest winners and messages from our athletes and volunteers.

Following Closing Ceremonies, we partied our hearts out at the Virtual Victory Dance, hosted by DJ Eric from Fireside Events LIVE on MixCloud!

Media Coverage

Our Virtual Summer Games got a lot of love from media throughout the state! Check out these links to discover how news outlets across Pennsylvania viewed the Games:

Thank you to our sponsors!

None of this would have been possible without the help of our presenting sponsor, Sheetz, as well as so many others who helped ensure our Virtual Summer Games went off without a hitch! Thank you!

We'll be honest. We didn't know what to expect going into the weekend of Virtual Summer Games. Obviously, the news that we wouldn't able to train together or compete was devastating. And the longer we were apart, the more difficult things became.

But after seeing so many athletes, volunteers, friends and family join the celebration from across the state, our hearts are so unbelievably full. You ALL showed so much spirit, so much passion and persevered so incredibly, it's impossible to express our gratitude. We know this was a different Summer Games. But for us, it has already become so memorable because of the way you all came together to celebrate the most important thing there is -- each other.