MISSION — Due to concerns related to the local and national spread of the coronavirus, Special Olympics Kansas has made the difficult decision to cancel some upcoming events including State Basketball and Cheer in Hays and Topeka.

“Athletes, we know you have been training hard and looking forward to competition,” said a statement from John Lair, president/CEO, of the organization. “We have been looking forward to seeing you show off your new skills, but we want to keep you healthy too. We know there will be a time in the future where you can share your skills with all of your friends, family, coaches, volunteers and the SOKS community. Until then focus on healthy habits.”

The 2020 State Basketball and Cheerleading Tournaments scheduled for March 14-15 in Topeka have been canceled, and the March 20-21events in Hays.

Also, all Young Athletes Programs scheduled for March 9-23; all local team practices scheduled for March 9–23; and the KU Unified Basketball Championship game scheduled for March 19.

While this news is incredibly disappointing for all of us, Lair’s statement said, the health and safety of our athletes, volunteers, staff, and partners remains our top priority.

“We have been closely monitoring the evolving situation with coronavirus for some time now, and we have been coordinating with Special Olympics, Inc. and Special Olympics North America, the Kansas Dept. of Health, and various health professionals.”

The organization had been working internally and with these various partners to develop and implement precautionary steps that would have allowed them to proceed safely with the games. Until Saturday, March 7, there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kansas. However at least one case has since been confirmed in Kansas and several others have been confirmed in states surrounding Kansas.

“We serve a population where many are at a heightened risk due to age and/or compromised immune systems, and our competitions require people to travel from all parts of the state to compete,” said Lair. “With this news about confirmed and possible suspected cases, we no longer believe that we can proceed with the Games and be sure we are providing a safe and healthy environment, regardless of what precautionary steps and/or preventative measures we might implement.”

While canceling events is truly disappointing for athletes who have trained for months to compete – as well as for the volunteers, family, friends and staff and board who support them and look forward to cheering for them – “we know that our love of sport doesn’t compare to the importance of protecting the health and safety of all involved.”

“We know this is a difficult message to have to deliver to our athletes and families, but we ask that you notify all members of your delegation of the cancellations and share our message that this decision was made with their health and safety at the center.”

Anyone with questions as it pertains to the cancellations, please contact Tim Rehder at rehdert@ksso.org or 913-236-9290 ext 108.

Special Olympics Kansas staff will re-evaluate the situation on March 23 and provide guidance and updated information regarding future events to athletes, families, coaches and volunteers at that time.