VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Local athletes like Naomi McBride are used to being awarded medals this time of year.
McBride was supposed to be one of many taking part in the Special Olympics Virginia Summer Games this weekend, but the coronavirus pandemic led to the event's cancellation.
"For Special Olympics, everyone is so social and we’ve known everyone for so many years," said Juliann Barrington, Special Olympics swim coach and Naomi's sister. "Not seeing them for a year is really hard.”
They games may be canceled, but when it comes to the excitement surrounding this time of year, the athletes and their supporters won't let the flame burn out.
Each year, thousands of members of law enforcement carry the 'Flame of Hope' 1,900 miles across Virginia ahead of the Summer Games.
This year the Torch Run continued on, but virtually. People from all over the commonwealth ran and walked, tallying their miles in an effort to reach the yearly 1,900 miles traveled.
The goal? To raise 15,000 dollars.
"We crushed that in like a day,” Izzy Nelson, project manager with the Special Olympics Virginia regional office, said.
By the end of the six-day virtual run, more than 5,700 miles were covered and more than 82,000 dollars were raised.
"The whole community over the state has come together for this and really embodied what state games is about," Nelson said.
The athletes may not be taking the podium this summer, but the Virtual Torch Run was certainly a gold-medal worthy accomplishment.