Competitions for the 31st Annual Tennessee Special Olympics Winter Games will be held January 31- February 2 at Ober Gatlinburg.

On Sunday night the public will be welcome to attend the Opening Ceremony, which kicks off at 6:45 and features the March of Athletes, the Special Olympics oath, a welcoming speech, and the presentation of colors. For those that want to witness the traditional lighting of the Special Olympics flame, that ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. Monday morning.

The number of athletes competing in the games totals 150, and they will be competing in the following events: Alpine skiing, snowboarding, and speed skating. The participants will be placed in divisions based on age and ability.

Special Olympics Tennessee has 14,000 participating athletes and provides year-round training and competition opportunities in 19 sports. Their mission statement also gives them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community. Athletes can train as early as six years old but cannot compete until the age of eight.

The Special Olympics is obviously a big deal throughout the country, and it would not be possible without the work of the many volunteers that lend their time to help children and adults with intellectual disabilities achieve their dreams. I say come out and support these athletes at Ober Gatlinburg, if you are here during this time. It may give you an even broader perspective that you may not have imagined you could receive when on vacation.