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Special Olympics torch makes its way to South Jersey

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The torch for the Special Olympics USA games made its way through South Jersey as the area preps for the start of opening ceremonies this weekend. (WPVI)

Escorted by special athletes and police officers from around the country, the Flame of Hope made its way to the campus of TD Bank in Mt. Laurel, one of several stops in South Jersey.

The torch is heralding the start of the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games, kicking off this weekend in New Jersey.

"This part it felt great and awesome," said Antonio Bowe, athlete.

43-year-old Bowe of Milford, Delaware carried the torch for part of the way, as did Louis Francher of Wyoming.

"Show all the people that like disabled, they can do like basketball and stuff, in wheelchairs, they can do whatever they want to do," said Louis Francher, athlete.

The games here in New Jersey have been four years in the making and thanks to individual and corporate donors, athletes attend for free.

Organizers say they're ready to go.

"There's so many moving parts, everything from transportation to volunteers to meals to competition to awards to ceremonies, and I think we are," said Marc Edenzon, Special Olympics New Jersey President.

"Just think of it: 70,000 spectators, 3,500 athletes and 271 just from the state of New Jersey," said Fred Graziano, Special Olympics New Jersey Vice-Chair.

Some of these athletes have been training for months and their heart, their guts, their desire to compete is an inspiration.

"I feel happy and proud and I like it because I want to do a good job and go for the gold," said Kelly O'Sullivan, athlete.

Events are being held mostly in Mercer County at various schools including Rider University. Even volunteers from the National Guard are helping to set up.

"The national delegation of athletes that are coming from across the country are going to be housed here at Rider University for the week of the Special Olympics. We're very busy getting ready," said Kristine Brown, Rider University.

Athletes begin arriving Saturday and opening ceremonies are Sunday.

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