Thunderbirds In the Community

SOAZ's Jamie Heckerman talks to 2020 WM Phoenix Open Tournament Chairman Tim Woods about current challenges and how to stay connected to the athletes during this time

As part of The Thunderbirds In the Community Conversations series, Thunderbirds’ Big Chief (2020 WM Phoenix Open Tournament Chairman) Tim Woods checked in with CEO of Special Olympics Arizona (SOAZ) Jamie Heckerman via virtual conference call to discuss the current challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, rally community support and communicate immediate and essential needs so SOAZ can continue to serve the community at large.

“Normally this is our very busy time of year. We have our summer games that are usually right around the corner. Unfortunately, this year that’s not happening,” said Heckerman. “We’ve really had to rethink some of the programming we normally deliver and figure out how we can do that in a different way.”

One of the major changes SOAZ is implementing to combat the effects of the pandemic is moving programming to a digital platform with an emphasis on connectivity and movement.

“On April 6 we launched SOAZ connected, where we’re providing content digitally for our athletes. This is meant to make our athletes think to be more healthy and engage in the community,” said Heckerman. “Also, we’ll be conducting health lessons online, fitness videos in real time, e-sports and other health and fitness content.”

Heckerman also mentioned a desire to create a certain amount of normalcy during these trying times by conducting digital versions of popular events.

“The summer games athlete dance is the highlight of any competition that we put on,” said Heckerman. “Through a program called house party, we’ll have a volunteer DJ that we’ll set up and play music and our athletes can just dance and see their friends and still engage in that way and bring our community back together.”

How can the community help SOAZ?

“We have realized through this that a lot of people out there that have time and talent that aren’t necessarily utilized,” said Heckerman. “If someone has a talent in art or the ability to do a fitness video or knowledge in karate they can share with our athletes, we’re looking for something to share that would engage with our athletes and allow them to have fun.”

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