The bags are packed for the 26-strong local contingent preparing to fly out from Kerikeri on Sunday to represent their district at a major sporting event in Wellington next week.
The 15 athletes in the team hail from Kerikeri, Kaikohe and Kaitaia and will be competing under the Bay of Islands Special Olympics Club banner in a field of over 1250 with intellectual disabilities at the 2017 Special Olympics National Summer Games from November 26 to December 1, 2017.
The age of the athletes in the team ranges from 9 to 29, with the majority competing in swimming bar one athlete taking part in the equestrian eventing.
Team spokeswoman Natasha King said there had been a lot of hard work and training in the lead-up and wished the athletes all the best in their respective Summer Games campaigns.
"The aim is to have fun, enjoy and swim and ride hard," she said, adding "everybody is excited".
However, she noted any excitement being felt was mostly by the athletes — the rest of the entourage had been fully occupied dealing with the logistics involved in getting such a large group to Wellington and back safely. "We [parents and caregivers] are the ones that have got all the stress," she laughed.
On behalf of the team, she gave a big thank you to all the supporters out in the community, all the funders who helped with costs involved in the campaign, all the coaches, managers, secretaries, treasurers and others involved for their hard work and keeping the club going, the use of the disability van to get the Kaitaia athletes to training and meets each week in Kawakawa and Whangarei, Kaitaia College, and all the parents and caregivers for helping get the athletes to Wellington.
Special praise went to the athletes for their effort and commitment in attending trainings and bettering themselves.
"We are looking forward to seeing all the other teams whilst not forgetting the disco night for relaxing at the end of the games."
The team is due to fly back to Kerikeri Airport on Saturday, December 2, arriving at 12.15pm.
Special Olympics has a Givealittle page for anyone keen to contribute a donation to support the club in their Summer Games campaign.
The 2017 Special Olympics National Summer Games in Wellington will run from November 26 to December 1.
Held every four years, the Games is New Zealand's largest event for people with intellectual disabilities and will see athletes of all ages compete in swimming, athletics, basketball, bocce, equestrian, football, golf, indoor bowls, powerlifting and tenpin bowling.
The opening ceremony will be held at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua next Monday, November 27, and the sports will be held throughout the Wellington, Hutt Valley and Porirua areas during the week.
Organisers were pleased to note there is 32 per cent increase in athlete and coach registrations compared with the previous event in 2013 at Dunedin.
The youngest athlete taking part at these Games is aged nine, the oldest 74, and it is estimated the overall turnout will surpass the 3000 mark.
There is also significance in the event location, with Wellington being where Grant and Wendy Quinn founded the Special Olympics movement in New Zealand more than 30 years ago.