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Organization says it will focus on local programs after financial review shows a significant revenue shortfall

REVIEW FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Special Olympics Oregon athletes and law enforcement officials jog through Lake Oswego on one leg of the 2017 Law Enforcement Torch Run. For more than 30 years, the relay has finished at the State Summer Games, but that competition was canceled Monday because of financial problems. Special Olympics Oregon announced Monday that it will suspend its 2018 State Games competitions, opting instead to concentrate on local training and programs.

"We have searched for every possible scenario that paints a better picture, but this is where we are," said Britt Carlson Oase, who joined the organization as CEO on June 1. "Currently, we don't have the funds available to pay for services we have used in the past, hindering our ability to carry out our 2018 schedule as planned."

Special Olympics Oregon's Board of Directors and new executive leadership made their decision following an internal financial review that showed a revenue shortfall in the 2018 budget, according to a news release posted to the organization's website. Coupled with expected expenses and existing debt, the organization said, there isn't enough money to pay vendors for the infrastructure needed to produce the State Games.

"Once we opened the books, we found significant challenges facing the organization," said new CFO Lori Van Dyke, who also came onboard June 1. "In recent years, record management, processes and accounting practices were not well maintained."

Special Olympics Oregon is now taking steps to organize financial records and establish a new financial plan, according to the release. That includes reducing expenses, implementing a hiring freeze following staff reductions, beginning new lines of communication with vendors and identifying opportunities for an immediate cash infusion.

"While the high-cost statewide competitions will be suspended, the organization is committed to providing opportunities for local training and programming for athletes," the news release said. "The mission of Special Olympics Oregon will remain fully alive and operational throughout the transition."

More than 14,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities compete at no cost in Special Olympics Oregon programs. More than 2,000 typically compete in the Summer State Games, which have served as Oregon's state championships in track & field, bocce, golf and softball. The participants train in their hometowns for eight weeks prior to the July games and qualify at regional competitions.

Earlier this year, dozens of Lake Oswego residents participated in SOOR's Polar Plunge to raise money for Special Olympics. On June 1, Lake Oswego police joined law enforcement agencies from around the state in a "Police on the Pantry" fundraiser. And the LOPD has also participated in the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run, which for 32 years has led to the lighting of the cauldron at the summer games. Monday's announcement included no information about money already raised or the future of those events, and phone calls to SOOR's Portland office were not returned.

Team Oregon, a delegation of 44 individuals from around the state, will still travel to the 2018 USA Games in Seattle in early July, according to the news release.

— The Review

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