KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Each year, hundreds of athletes look forward to participating in the annual Special Olympics Summer Games.
"I like everything. I like the people, the friends. I like it a lot," said Ryan Frady, an Athlete of the Year nominee from the Fort Loudon region.
When the Summer Games were canceled due to COVID-19, organizers and coaches like Donna Webb took a new approach to keep the spirit of the games alive.
They came up with the "Virtual Games."
Athletes had to complete a series of fitness challenges like push-ups or holding a plank. Then, they posted videos of themselves in a special Facebook Group.
In Webb's region, many of the athletes don't have internet, so she personally visited them.
"I went and checked on people. I'd drop by and wave or talk to them from the car, just trying to keep their brains working and their bodies working, just keep them from getting depressed and lonely," Webb said.
On Monday afternoon, Special Olympics Tennessee hosted its Opening Ceremonies on Zoom. Throughout the week there are several online training sessions and seminars for the athletes.
Webb said the most important thing is to keep the athletes connected and moving until they can all be together again.
Meanwhile, Frady is already looking forward to next year's games, which will be a welcome reunion for athletes who haven't seen each other in more than a year.