They dove into the water ready to win, but participants of an event on Saturday were focused on something more important than winning a gold medal.  

"The other kids [are] really nice and special to us," said Dennis Maroudas.

The Hillside Swim Club hosted their 21st Annual "Special Olympian Unified Swim Meet" in Bulls Head.

The goal of the event is to connect athletes with disabilities to athletes from various club teams for a competitive day of fun.

"All the tag lines and all how we describe people - they're all swimmers, and they get in the pool and they swim their hearts out, and there's competition - but not only that there's cheering for everybody," said Marlene Markoe-Boyd from the Hillside Swim Club.

For some the meet was all about overcoming obstacles. Gregory Perosi used an aquatic chair lift to get into the pool, and compete in the event for the first time.

"I don't want to sit home, I don't want to lollygag all day, so let me join in the meet and have some fun," said Perosi.

Special Olympians aren't the only ones benefiting from the unified meet, athletes from the hillside pool club and other participating teams say they've gotten back just as much back in return.

"They're all different, but they're all amazing people," said participant Amanda Heapes.

"Some of these kids have never really had dealings with people with disabilities, and you hear comments like "gee they're just like us," explained Bob Griswold from Special Olympics - Staten Island.

The event keeps growing and organizers say this year marks the highest number of swimmers and volunteers they've ever seen.