ROANOKE, Va. – More than 400 athletes came together on an equal playing field Tuesday for the Special Olympics Big Feet Meet.
"It's so lovable and all that. I've never had an experience like that, but this is the first experience," student athlete Keyon Farmer said.
The annual track and field event brought middle and high school students and adult athletes from 35 schools and community programs to William Fleming High School.
"They are the protagonists of this event and it makes them feel very special so it means the world for them and for us as parents," said Surmy Rojas, a student athlete's mother.
More than 200 peer buddies joined the teams.
"It shows that we're all champions in our own ways regardless of our differences," said Kylee Mycock, an adaptive special education teacher at William Fleming High School.
Organizers said the day is about inclusion and focusing on ability rather than disability.
"It's a lot to get done especially at the beginning of the school years but we're so pleased when we see the relationships building and families getting involved and families realizing how valuable this opportunity is," said Nancy Morehouse, director of the southwest region and unified sports specialist for Special Olympics Virginia.
William Fleming High School also received national recognition for excellence in creating an inclusive school community. It's one of just 14 schools in Virginia and 38 schools in the country to receive the honor.