MERCER COUNTY - Athletes from across the country are in New Jersey this week for the Special Olympics national competition.

Alyssa Sims is seizing her moment in the Special Olympics. "I love gymnastics," she says. "I love the feeling of it. I feel alive when I do it."

She beat the odds to even be here, says her mom Renee Herriott. "She was a pound, 13 ounces when she was born. She had a brain bleed and went through so much."

Alyssa is one of the nearly 270 New Jersey athletes competing this week in the Special Olympics in their home state.

For parents like Diane Ludwig, whose daughter Molly is a gymnast, it's a proud time. "It's incredible to see your child be able to do something that you were once told when they were born that they'd never be able to do." 

She says doctors told her that Molly, who has genetic cerebral palsy, would never walk, much less walk a balance beam one day.

The Special Olympics are an opportunity for athletes who are disabled to strive and compete to the best of their abilities. The games bring nearly 3,500 hopeful medalists to the Garden State.

The Special Olympics will conclude Thursday when the medals are presented.