The coronavirus pandemic has been incredibly hard for Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes for many reasons.
It has deprived athletes of considerable athletic experiences as well as critical opportunities for social interaction. While nothing can match the experience of an in-person Special Olympics event, Special Olympics Wisconsin has been hard at work trying to keep its athletes connected and healthy throughout the pandemic through virtual programming.
All of Special Olympics Wisconsin would prefer to be back on the playing field, but some have embraced the virtual options like SOWI Live programs and fitness challenges that Special Olympics Wisconsin has made available to its athletes.
“She looks forward to doing the Fit 5 exercises and getting onto the chats on Zoom. She is so proud of herself at the end of the week when she sees that she worked out five or six days that week.” – Jennifer’s sister, Malinda
Like many of us, Jennifer Fuerstenau of Dodge County Special Olympics started off the pandemic in a funk. She was home from work and not doing much besides watching TV and playing on her phone. But in part thanks to SOWI virtual programming, she would go on to thrive during these last several months of quarantine.
Fuerstenau has been staying busy, active and connected to Special Olympics by participating in Fit 5 workouts, interactive SOWI Live meetings on Zoom, School of Strength workouts, and weekly Anytime Fitness workouts live on Facebook. “It gave me something to work on,” Fuerstenau said.
“She looks forward to doing the Fit 5 exercises and getting onto the chats on Zoom,” said Malinda Fuerstenau, Jennifer’s sister. “She is so proud of herself at the end of the week when she sees that she worked out five or six days that week.”
Fuerstenau has also walked regularly in the pool at her local YMCA when not working out at home, even losing a little bit of weight in the meantime. “She’s toned up some, that’s for sure,” said her sister, Malinda. “I hope she keeps it up.”
Taking SOWI fitness seriously paid off in other ways too. Fuerstenau won two of the fitness challenges and she was recognized during the Virtual Celebration Ceremony and even received prize packages.
Fuerstenau also participated in the Virtual Summer Games, competing in the 50-meter walk, 100-meter walk, 2×100-meter Unified Relay, Standing Long Jump, and Softball Throw.
While most of her pandemic fitness activity was done on her own, Fuerstenau was able to see some of her teammates in person for a social distancing-friendly outing when Dodge County Special Olympics participated in the Virtual Torch Run on May 30.
All this increased activity and commitment to fitness perhaps even helped her to tackle a new challenge during this unique summer. For the first time she was able to go kayaking by herself on Beaver Dam Lake, an ideal outing during these social distancing times.
Next up, Fuerstenau will take part in the Virtual Buckshot Run taking place between August 28 and September 4, where she plans to walk one mile each day for three days as part of her continued focus on fitness and health.
But as a powerhouse fundraiser who typically raises more than $1,000 for the Polar Plunge, the Buckshot Run will also give Fuerstenau another way to raise money for an organization that has always had her back, even during the midst of a once-in-a-generation pandemic.