STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WTAJ) — The Special Olympics of Pennsylvania (SOPA) Summer Games were canceled, leaving athletes and volunteers “heartbroken.”

“This is a really tough blow,” Chief Mission Officer Nate Garland said. “Our hearts are broken for our athletes and then the volunteers.”

The announcement came in shortly after 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 8. Almost 1,700 athletes were heading to Happy Valley to compete.

“We got the word last night that we were going to have the games so we were excited to come in and start setting up,” Volunteer Coordinator Bikem Oskin said. “Some did actually come in and register and sign in and go to their events. Only to find out that they were turned away.”

Representatives from SOPA said the air quality conditions in State College were at an unsafe level to conduct the games.

“Our athletes, many of them have underlying health issues,” Garland said. “Our athletes have an increased occurrence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, all things that put them at risk.”

The games are funded in part by The Paterno Family Beaver Stadium Run. This year, the run raised a record $445,000. Garland said SOPA is now working with donors to find ways to continue to fulfill the mission of the organization.

“While this is our biggest event of the year, our athletes compete year-round,” Garland said. “So, it’s not like we took that one opportunity away.”

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Garland said there are no plans to reschedule the games at this time.

“While this is hard, this is an easy decision when it comes to saving people’s lives and putting people not at risk,” Garland said.