GRAND JUNCTION Hundreds of fans and athletes gathered this morning to kick off Special Olympics Colorado and one participant says he's been involved for 28 years.
"I'm beyond excited," Athlete Bryan Terry said. "I can't wait to get in the pool."
Today Terry competed in the 50-butterfly. Since being involved with the Special Olympics he has been to both China and Korea for the world games, but for him it's about more than just the competition.
"Everybody is accepted for who they are, no matter what kind of disability they have," Terry said.
This is the second year Grand Junction has hosted the statewide competition and last year 300 athletes from Mesa County were able to compete for the first time.
"When I first came down a couple of years ago President Tim Foster from CMU said, 'Not only will CMU embrace this, but our community will. You wait and see.' and he was right," President and CEO of Special Olympics Colorado Mindy Watrous said.
CMU plays a huge part in Special Olympics Colorado, hosting a majority of the events on campus, as well as dinner and a movie last night and a dance tonight.
Over the last few years the number of athletes has grown 56%, but that's not the only thing that's increasing. The crowd in the stands has also gotten much bigger.
"Our athletes deserve the opportunity to compete in front of fans and in front of people that cheer them on and we have that here," Watrous said.
Watrous began working with the Special Olympics eight years ago and since her start has seen a number of additions including a program for young athletes ages 2.5 to 7 years old. She says the joy in the organization is what keeps her going.
"Despite everything, every challenge they have, every person here would give their best," Watrous said.
Special Olympics Colorado serves almost 15,000 athletes across the state and the organization has made their way into 107 Colorado schools, making major strides in promoting acceptance.
Throughout the year they give athletes over 100 opportunities to train and compete in 22 sports.
If you missed out today, events will continue tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. at Walker Field. It is free and open to the public.