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Special Olympics Family Festival going virtual in 2020

Special Olympics Family Festival going virtual in 2020


MATTOON — Consolidated Communications, Special Olympics Illinois and Lake Land College have announced that the 2020 Special Olympics Family Festival will be a virtual event this September due to COVID-19 pandemic safety concerns.

Created in 1984 by Consolidated and hosted on Lake Land's campus, the festival is an event that traditionally brings together more than 600 Special Olympics athletes and 1,200 volunteers for a day of games and activities. Consolidated reported in a press release that this year’s festival, set for Sept. 19, will not be held in person to ensure the health and safety of athletes and volunteers, but activities will occur virtually to celebrate area athletes.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of those who attend SOFF and, at this time, we do not feel it is responsible to bring 1,800 people together during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Consolidated President and CEO Bob Udell. “We simply cannot put the health of the athletes and volunteers at risk. SOFF is a highly anticipated event in the lives of our athletes, volunteers and our employees, and we are committed to continuing the festival when it is safe to do so.”

The festival committee, comprising Consolidated employees, along with representatives from Special Olympics, Lake Land, First Mid Bank & Trust and Sarah Bush Lincoln, is planning a virtual event that will include many of the same features as the typical festival, delivered in an online format.

“While we are disappointed we will not get together in person, it is the right decision for the health and safety of all concerned.  I am confident the virtual event will be a great and creative way to engage,” said Special Olympics Illinois President and CEO Dave Breen, thanking festival organizers for their support over the years. 

Lake Land President Josh Bullock said the college community will miss seeing all the athletes and volunteers on campus this fall, but they know this is the best decision to protect all involved.

“We look forward to welcoming everyone back to Lake Land’s campus in September 2021 for a grand celebration,” Bullock said.

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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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