As 2021 comes to an end, there are many blessings to reflect upon – and yes, challenges too. I’d like to share a passage from a book, Be Where Your Feet Are, written by my friend, Scott O’Neill, CEO of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils: “When we're moving at 115 MPH, we rarely see the wall coming. But it comes for all of us and when it does, we grasp for lessons, for meaning, for purpose. Each moment (good or bad) and each win or loss, provides us an opportunity to learn, and if we choose to take it, that opportunity can change our lives-and the world- for the better. The human spirit craves connection. Authenticity. Belonging. Touch. Gratitude. Purpose. We need to make our interactions count. Whether it's the death of a friend, loss of a job, a bad break-up or the isolation of Covid-19, those who manage to be where their feet are will grow, stretch and emerge stronger, smarter and more prepared as we find peace and gratitude in the pause.”
We are frustrated to still be developing safety measures for an on-going pandemic; we are grateful for the many athletes we see and spend time with through our programming, but worry about those who have stepped back during the pandemic and hope that they are staying healthy, fit, and socially engaged; and we grapple with how to ensure our fundraising model adapts to uncertainty and ever-changing conditions as we are protective of our stability. All of those things are real and valid, but if we pause and focus on where our feet are – most of us at Special Olympics Oregon will smile as we’ve made some pretty good lemonade out of the COVID-19 lemons. Here are some of the highlights:

Special Olympics Oregon hosted successful Winter Virtual Games and Summer Virtual Games presented by Providence Health & Services events where more than 600 athletes and Unified partners (supported by 100 virtual coaches) participated in at-home sports training and competition plus special events such as opening ceremonies, awards presentations, and victory dances which saw thousands of views on our SOOR YouTube channel.  

Unified Champion Schools continue to offer a variety of virtual and in-school inclusive sports, youth leadership and school-wide engagement programming and events.

Special Olympics Oregon Youth Games presented by Nike went virtual for the first time this past May. 500 children with intellectual disabilities received a Nike Play Bag filled with equipment to promote movement and fun in a variety of activities offered through a catalog of instructional videos posted on the event website. Content was created by Nike employees, University of Portland and Willamette University student-athletes, and other volunteers who demonstrated sports skills, gave fitness lessons, and taught interactive games that could be adapted and done safely in a variety of settings.

SOOR Active online wellness community now boasts more than 1,300 members who participate in sports, fitness, health, wellness and social activities offered each week. Athletes, families, volunteers and supporters from around the state have been able to create content, forge friendships, and stay connected. Keep an eye out for a fitness challenge coming in January.

SOOR Esports presented by PlayStation has engaged more than 200 gamers in year-round Unified Rocket League play and tournaments. Special Olympics Oregon has been recognized nationally for our work within esports. 

Hundreds of people found crazy and creative ways to participate virtually in the 2021 Polar Plunge this past February raising awareness and more than $300,000 along the way.  

By September we were gathered outdoors in a show of strength at the 6th annual Plane Pull Presented by Subaru, launching this beloved event to new heights and raising over $70,000 for SOOR!

Breakfast with Champions presented by U.S. Bank provided a wonderful glimpse into the life of athlete Dony Knight and the role SOOR has played throughout his childhood and into adulthood.

In September, SOOR reopened with a phased approach to its return to in-person activities. Phase 1, which runs through December 31, 2021, allows local programs to offer limited-size in-person sports training in select outdoor sports with strict safety protocols in place. Several local programs offered sport training days or weekly sessions this past fall. It was great to see athletes and coaches together again experiencing the joy of gathering for the first time in more than 18 months.

As the new year approaches, SOOR is excited to transition into Phase 2 of our Return to Activities with expanded in-person sport opportunities for the winter season to include select outdoor and indoor sports (such as aquatics, basketball and bowling) with more opportunities to safely gather for meetings, hold fundraisers and other non-sports events as well – including in-person Polar Plunge events in 7 different locations across the state during January and February. Phase 2 is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2022 and run through at least March 31, 2022.  

To learn more about Special Olympics Oregon return to activities plans and most current COVID-19 updates and resources, please go to

Be well, stay safe and have a happy holiday season!

In sport,
Britt Oase, CEO
Special Olympics Oregon
Fundraise to get your Polar Plunge gear!
Each participant who registers for the 2022 Polar Plunge before January 1st will be entered to win (2) roundtrip travel tickets from Southwest Airlines. Additionally, each $25 raised in the month of December will gain registered participants an additional (1) entry into the drawing**
**Drawing is for (2) pair of tickets from Southwest Airlines and is only valid for registered participants of the 2022 Polar Plunge (all cities plus Plunge at Home). Winner will be randomly selected on Monday, January 3, 2022.
Avery Schuler
By Cindy Miguel

Meet Avery Schuler, a Special Olympics Oregon athlete from Yamhill County. She is a Newberg High school 11th grader, and began her Special Olympics journey as an athlete from Washington County at age 6, with her first competition at age 8. Avery has competed in soccer, swimming, athletics and has recently been named as a delegate of Team Oregon, competing in athletics (track & field) in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games

Donna and Eric Thorpe
By LouAnne Tabada

We celebrate our new Local Program Coordinators (LPCs) for Lincoln County! 
Donna and Eric Thorpe love seeing the athletes and the enjoyment they get from participating in sports. They love to “watch them grow and blossom throughout the sports season." They’re quick to add, “It enlightens me to see them having a good time – whether they’re winning or losing." Donna and Eric are excited to be in the LPC roles and know that “the most important thing is to get going! We want to meet our athletes and parents and let them know that we’re going to get things going."

LETR Partner
Ryan Gosse

OSP Trooper Ryan Gosse will represent Oregon Law Enforcement Torch Run at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games as the Final Runner in Florida.

Ryan Gosse has been involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run and Polar Plunge events for the last six years. Ryan’s 11-year-old daughter has special needs and a rare genetic disorder called Sotos. Ryan is committed to supporting efforts, such as the Special Olympics, that will allow his sweet daughter to enjoy life to the fullest.

LouAnne Tabada
By Britt Oase

What a year 1996 was: Major League Soccer had its first season, Prince Charles and Diana divorced, the Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta, Dolly the sheep was cloned, Ebay was started…and LouAnne Tabada began her career with Special Olympics Oregon (SOOR). 

In 2022, SOOR will turn 50 years old and LouAnne has been an integral part of its story for half of those years. 

In 25 years, she has held various positions and currently serves as the Senior Director of Program & Volunteer Services, working directly with Local Programs while also taking the lead role for volunteer recruitment and management within the organization. 

Our Mission
Special Olympics Oregon provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children, youth and adults living with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.