2017 Special Olympics NC Athlete of the Year
On November 3, 2017, a quiet Travis Bowman
sat intently listening to the 2017 Special Olympics
NC Fall Tournament Opening Ceremony program.
His delegation from Craven County had been
seated in the front, which he considered to not
only be exciting, but an honor.
Bowman listened on as SONC’s President/CEO
Keith Fishburne announced several awards.
“…A longtime athlete and contributor to his
local program, this athlete is always ready to lend
a hand…,” Bowman heard Fishburne say.
He thought that description sounded like him,
but he reminded himself to not get his hopes up
and that many athletes were exceptional leaders
in their local programs.
“I am proud to announce the 2017 Special
Olympics Athlete of the Year is…” Keith continued as Bowman listened
closely, wondering if he would know the athlete who was chosen.
“Travis Bowman of Craven County!”
A look of surprise and a huge smile crossed his face as Bowman
jumped up with so much excitement. He ran to the stage and gave
Fishburne a hug before he was presented his plaque. After shaking
Fishburne’s hand, Bowman threw both hands up in the air and
was greeted by a roar of applause from the audience. With his
unforgettable smile and palpable excitement, the presentation of
this award was a memorable one for all who watched.
“I was so surprised and very happy,” recalls Bowman. “I will always
have the plaque hanging in my front room.”
Travis Bowman earned that plaque.
If you ask anyone in New Bern, North Carolina to show you someone
who exhibits the definition of kindness, they would probably direct
you to Special Olympics Craven County athlete, Travis Bowman. A
warm-hearted leader in his community, Bowman seeks to do as much
good as he can for as many people as possible.
“My favorite thing about Travis is his ability to light up a room,” says
Special Olympics Craven County Local Coordinator, Steven Aster. “He
always has the ability to make people smile and laugh.”
Special Olympics has been a part of Bowman’s life for over 20 years.
During his tenure as a Special Olympics athlete, he has competed in
swimming, bowling and athletics.
“All of the sports I play are my favorite because I get to compete
and win! But even better than winning, Special Olympics has given me
some of the best friends ever. I love going on trips and meeting new
people,” explains Bowman.
Bowman’s Special Olympics career extends beyond competition.
“He is the go to athlete for anything and everything,” exclaims Aster.
Bowman can always be counted on to volunteer, give the Athlete
Oath at various local events, and run with the torch into the Opening
Ceremony of events in Craven County.
When he’s not competing, Bowman spends his time driving
through the neighborhood doing various tasks
for the community.
“I mow their grass, I rake their leaves, I clean out
their cars, I wash the van for the Autistic Society
and when it snows, I scrape people’s driveways. I
love helping people,” Bowman states. “It makes
them feel good so it makes me feel good.”
Bowman’s desire to help others stems
from his mother.
“She taught me how to drive and cook meals. I
love my mama,” says Bowman.
The admiration Bowman has for his mother
certainly goes both ways.
“I don’t even know where to begin to explain
how proud I am of Travis. He has fought through
so much adversity in his life to get to where he
is,” his mother shares. “He’s so helpful and hardworking. I don’t know
what I would do in the house without him. He is a joy. If I had to boil it
all down to one word I would describe Travis as a blessing – not only
to me, but to everyone he meets.”
His mother knew, though, she couldn’t raise him alone and without
a father figure in his life, Bowman would need a strong male mentor
to help her teach him many of life’s lessons.
“I applied to several mentorship programs through different
agencies,” explains his mother. “Travis has had several mentors
through the years but the one who worked the best for him and stuck
around was Mr. Ray.”
Now, fifteen years later, Mr. Ray has become a huge part
of Travis’ life.
“Mr. Ray is my best friend,” Bowman says. “He takes me on trips. He
fixes my car. He helps me with everyday decisions. He does everything
a mentor is supposed to do and more.”
“I can’t explain to you what an impact he has had on the lives of
so many in our community,” Mr. Ray shares. “He is so quick to help
and does things for people without being asked. He is a special
guy. Another cool thing about Travis is that he loves giving advice
to people, but especially loves encouraging the younger Special
And just what advice does Bowman give to a Special Olympics
athlete who is just starting out?
“I would say ‘do the best you can, be happy and enjoy’. Then, I’d
teach them the ropes!”
His willingness to lend a hand and positive attitude are just two of
many reasons Bowman was selected as the 2017 Athlete of the Year.
And though the award came as a surprise to Bowman, the same can’t
be said for those who know him best.
“He was surprised by the award,” Mr. Ray said. “But no one else was.
We are all so proud of who he is and who he will continue to be.”
Congratulations on being named 2017 Special Olympics North
Carolina Athlete of the Year, Travis!