The state summer games kicked off Friday at N.C. State University. Athletes from across North Carolina, 1,800 in all, are participating in six sports.
The athletes, their families and coaches will tell you the games are more than a competition; it is a chance to make new friends, and spend time with old ones.
Delegations of athletes from more than 80 counties marched around the track, then joined fans and family in the stands for the lighting of the torch.
WRAL's Jim Payne co-hosted the opening ceremony and introduced the athletes.
The final delegation introduced was Team North Carolina USA -- made up of the athletes from our state who will participate in the1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
Gymnast Cameron Thomas is among those who will come back to Raleigh next month to compete in the World Games.
Cameron's mom says she could not be prouder!
"I'd just love for everyone else to look at her and feel just a little of what I feel because I'm so proud of her," says Linda Thomas. "I want the whole world to see her, just like any mom would."
This weekend's state level games are also being used as a training opportunity for athletes competing in the World Games.
The state summer games run through Sunday with power lifting, distance relays, softball and volleyball competitions.
Team USA will compete in the Special Olympics World Summer Games beginning June 26.