DeSantis Celebrates Special Olympians Who ‘Successfully Fought’ COVID Vaccine Mandate to Compete

August 29, 2022 Updated 3:25 PM ET

desantis special olympics

TALLAHASSEE (FLV) – Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis hosted Special Olympians at the Governor’s Mansion last week.

They welcomed Special Olympics 2022 USA Games medal winners as well as athletes who could not compete because Special Olympics International vaccine mandate was lifted too late.

“We saw many Floridians with special abilities win medals, but most importantly they used their God-given abilities to play sports together and have fun,” Governor DeSantis said.

Special Olympics International rescinded its vaccine mandate in early June after the DeSantis Administration said it would fine the group $27.5 million for violating state law and requiring athletes to provide proof of the COVID vaccine before competing. 

Florida law prohibits vaccine mandates and the Special Olympics International ended up pulling the vaccine mandate days prior to the games.

The governor’s office released a video of a parent of one of the Special Olympic athletes, Isabella, thanking the governor for his fight against the mandate.

“With a one-handed swing, she placed fourth in individual skills, which was co-ed competition. Without you, this could have never happened,” Isabella’s mom said.

“These athletes deserve to be celebrated for their accomplishments,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “I am proud of the effort they put forward at the games and excited for them to have the opportunity to participate in the All-Star Showcase. In Florida, we will always fight for Floridians with unique abilities, including our inspirational athletes.”

At the Governor’s June 3rd press conference, athletes and families of athletes shared their appreciation for the dropped mandate. 

Port St. Lucie resident Frank Vernoia has been competing since he was eight years old but was told he could not compete in the 2022 USA Games. Vernoia, who has a learning disability and epilepsy, decided not to receive the vaccine.

Special Olympics International originally required about 5,000 people to provide vaccination proof. 

Here is a link to the video.

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