Special Olympics cancels State Winter Games in Whitefish

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Special Olympics Montana will not hold its 2018 State Winter Games in Whitefish.

Significant growth and expansion of the state nonprofit over the past decade has forced the organization to rethink how it operates, according to a statement by Bob Norbie, president and CEO of Special Olympics Montana.

The games were scheduled from March 4-6 at Whitefish Mountain Resort. The games held last spring marked 22 consecutive years with Whitefish serving as host.

“For the past several years we’ve recognized that we are unable to continue servicing our mission the way we have,” Norbie said. “With athlete numbers increasing at a rate faster than we have the capacity (fans and funds) to serve them with our current service delivery model, we need to rethink how we care for our mission and sustain quality program.”

In 2016, there were 2,966 athletes who participated in the games, compared to 1,850 in 2011. In addition new ancillary programs have been added with athlete participation days having grown.

“However, with this success we are faced with how to sustain our growth,” Norbie said.

Special Olympics is looking to regionalize competition by creating area games, while the groups state headquarters staff would focus attention on coaches training statewide, and the 2018 USA Games in Seattle. Whitefish Mountain Resort spokeswoman Riley Polumbus said the resort will host a smaller regional competition on Monday, March 5.

Special Olympics plans to pilot program changes in the next couple years to see how well they serve athletes “with sustainable quality sports training and competition, health, education and community-building initiatives.”

The nonprofit says that alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding will continue to be part of its sports program and athletes will remain eligible for advancement to higher levels of competition such as the World Games.

“By developing and experimenting with a new sports training and competition model, we believe we will establish a better way to sustain our growth,” Norbie said.

Special Olympics Montana is a statewide nonprofit organization that provides year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health-related programming for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

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