SUDBURY -- Athletes who are part of the Special Olympics chapter in Sudbury signed their names in support of the 900 people who are participating in the winter games, including dozens from Northern Ontario.

 “We have roughly around 50 athletes from the northern district, which covers from Sudbury, North Bay, Sturgeon, Elliot Lake, Sault Ste. Marie and all that district,” said Lynne Houle, community co-ordinator with Special Olympics Sudbury. “Sudbury is very proud to have thirteen athletes going out, they are participating in curling, snowshoeing, figure skating and 5 pin bowling.”

Special Olympics Ontario is marking its 51st year and Greater Sudbury has been participating in Special Olympics for 42 years now.

“It’s beautiful to see how they can achieve so many things…it’s not always against one another, it’s their own personal achievement,” said Houle.

Houle says over the last four decades, the number of Special Olympics Athletes has increased to about 350 in the Sudbury area.

“I did track and field and t-ball and soccer and last year I came in first place in West Nipissing and it gives me joy and happiness to be part of the family with Special Olympics Ontario,” said Duane Gunn, Special Olympics Athlete.

All athletes play a variety of sports.

“I do bocce, golf, track and field, t-ball, softball, bowling, swimming and my newest one I’m doing this year is powerlifting,” said Joshua Smet, a Special Olympics Athlete.

The flag will make its way to Thunder Bay, where it will stay. Athletes say participating brings warm feelings.

“It feels like your minds lifted off your shoulders, it gives me a positive feelings.” said Zach Cindric, a Special Olympics Athlete.