The sports world has been hit hard over the last few months. One of the organizations impacted by Covid-19 is the Special Olympics, but athletes on the Central Coast are making the most of it.
A group of athletes joined their partners at Centennial Park in Paso Robles this week in preparation for a weekend of 'Virtual Inclusion.' Due to the coronavirus pandemic, athletes will not be able to compete in the Summer Games this season, but instead all of the activities will be available online to accommodate social distancing guidelines.
"Our athletes really depend on the social part and they haven't had that for the last three months," Special Olympics Sports Manager Lindsay Franklin said. "This was just a great time to get out, socially distanced, but to get out and just get to hang out with each other."
The athletes gathered in a circle along with their partners as they performed a series of stretches before going through a few soccer drills.
"Just hanging out them with us fun," Special Olympics partner Akasha Asberry said. "They're super funny, they like to dance and crack jokes, and it's super exciting seeing the smiles and all that stuff."
Longtime volunteer Shasta Garcia has been partnering with the Special Olympics since 7th grade, and plans to pursue Special Education in college.
"It's a really special experience to get to bond with these amazing athletes," Garcia said. "I get to take it to college with me, and I get to take these experiences and the people I've met as a reminder of where I come from and what I want to continue to do with my life."
For now, virtual inclusion might take some getting used to, but the goal remains to have these athletes face to face, participating together.
"I hope in a few months we'll get to have unified events at schools and that'd be something that everyone can come see because you have to see it in person," Franklin added.
Anyone interested in joining the fun this weekend can find more information at SOSC.org.