On Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, 18,000 people, including 3,500 athletes, gathered to celebrate the opening of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games. The event is the third Special Olympics USA Games, after 2006 in Ames, Iowa, and 2010 in Lincoln, Neb. The 2014 Games will be held in Mercer County, N.J.

Divided by T-shirt colors based on state delegation, the athletes were united as they marched in the Parade of Athletes. The honorary chair of the USA Games, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, made a brief appearance at the star-studded ceremony. The festivities were hosted by actress and model Brooklyn Decker and 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year and Philadelphia 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams.

The ceremony featured performances by Jennifer DiNoia of Broadway's "Wicked," performance artist David Garibaldi, the Billy Joel tribute band Mike DelGuidice & Big Shot and LaShell Griffin, winner of Oprah Winfrey's "Pop Star Challenge." Other guests included Rutgers football coach Kyle Flood and "Glee" actress Jane Lynch.

“Their greatness is measured by more than just trophies, medals and pins,” Lynch said.

The state of New Jersey allocated $2 million to the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority to help fund the games. With the help of corporate sponsors, total funding surpassed $10 million. The games run from Monday June 16 to Saturday, June 21. All games and competition are open to the public and free.

A detailed scheduled and more information on the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games can be found at 2014SpecialOlympics.org.