After two years of isolation, Special Olympic Athletes across Simcoe County are starting to reunite with in-person competitions.

On Saturday, Barrie played host to what the organization calls 'Hometown Games.' It's a friendly competition as athletes slowly transition back to traditional activities after operating virtually for the last two years.

"The Hometown Games is a concept this year to help special Olympics get back into the groove after two years of hiatus due to COVID, and one of the ways we wanted to do it was to get the athletes back involved in competition," says Leni Johnston, a community coordinator with Special Olympics. "We haven't had a lot of training practice because they haven't been able to train over the past two years, but they get excited about competitions, so it gets them back into that thinking!"

Athletes were playing bocce ball at the Barrie Sports Dome Saturday. About 50 athletes were there, coming from Barrie, Bradford, Vaughan and Brampton.

Johnston says the in-person competitions, which have slowly started resuming over the last few months, are so crucial for the athletes who have at times struggled without them throughout the pandemic.

"Most of our athletes strive not only on participating in the sport but the social interaction with their team players and the other players, and of course, they haven't been able to do that," says Johnston. "We've had a wonderful support from Special Olympics Ontario, they quickly got on board with providing virtual programs, and they are still up and running."

Johnston says they always need volunteers and coaches to keep the organization running. If you'd like to help, you can find out more information by clicking here.