ST. LOUIS – Inspirational athletes come together this weekend for the 47th annual Special Olympics Missouri at Westminster Christian Academy.

Nearly 250 Special Olympics athletes in the St. Louis area gathered to compete in running, jumping, throwing and swimming events. The athletes are preparing for the State Summer Games in Columbia, Missouri.

“It’s for anyone with intellectual disabilities age 8 and older. Today we’re doing a competition but also doing Healthy Athlete Screenings and having some fun stations. So it’s a combination of hard competition and fun games,” said Jocelyn Diehl, Regional Program Director.

The qualifying track & field and swim meet began with a Torch Run featuring law enforcement officers from across the community. Athletes will compete until 2:30 p.m.

Special Olympics Missouri is a year-round life-changing program for more than 16,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities throughout the state.

“I love this energy, I have my own children here and they’re loving it, and it’s such an uplifting environment,” Pete Paciorek, Senior Director of Development. “Every time I have a chance to be part of the Special Olympics – any events across the state – they’re just so uplifting and it’s just wonderful to be here.”

Athletes have access to sports training, athletic competition, health & wellness, and life skills opportunities.

“One of my favorite programs that I’m learning about is our ALPs program, which is Athlete Leadership Program, Athlete Leadership University where our students can go on and continue to build skills to help them enter the workforce,” said Paciorek.

Athletes also receive “Healthy Smiles” dental and “FunFitness” wellness screenings in between their competition events as a part of Special Olympics Health Athletes Programs.