BUTLER COUNTY (KDKA) – The Special Olympics of Pennsylvania has canceled one of its statewide tournaments.

They announced Friday, the indoor winter sports tournament scheduled for March 7-8 was being canceled due to growing fear over COVID-19.

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The organization said in a statement:

“We serve a population where many are at a heightened risk (age, compromised immune systems, and/or medically fragile), and our competitions require people to travel from all parts of the state to convene in venues and engage in sport. Therefore, we no longer believe that we can prudently proceed with the Games and ensure a safe and healthy environment.”

Volunteers with the Special Olympics PA Butler County told KDKA they were already on the road to the tournament when they received the news that it had been canceled.

Mary Pitzer, who has been volunteering with the Special Olympics for over 20 years said she cannot remember a time when the state tournament had been canceled before. She said she was shocked when one of the other volunteers on the bus showed her the email notification from SOPA.

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“He’s like, Mary you need to see this why am I getting this email? And I’m like what email? And he says it says the indoor winter games have been canceled. I said don’t joke like that.”

Pitzer told KDKA the Butler County Division was taking more than 40 players and volunteers to participate in the tournament in York, PA.

Pitzer said she believes the group will be reimbursed for the coach bus they rented to travel there.

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They have not been charged for the tournament.