At the heart of things

What do we really know about an athlete? Perhaps their stats, or their winning record. A great fan may know the choreography of a big play, or an athlete’s favorite stance. But beyond the skill and discipline, accomplishment and determination, who are these figures we so admire? Every athlete has a story but some really show us who they are.

Traci Knowles of New Hanover County is just such an athlete.


When Knowles learned about Special Olympics through friends at Cape Fear Community College, she knew she had to get involved. That’s how she got into one of her favorite sports, bowling. From there, she began swimming, then she tried bocce, and then cheerleading. A four-sport athlete, Knowles is no stranger to the awards podium. Though her love of sports goes beyond the joy of feeling a medal around her neck.


“Traci is very committed to Special Olympics, she really puts her whole heart into each competition,” said Knowles’s father, Larry.


Knowles has the endless energy characteristic of an athlete, however, her character shines just as bright outside of sports. Knowles applies her discipline and enthusiasm to her entire community and is known around town as an overwhelmingly positive presence.


Proof in point, Knowles became “Wilmington famous” this year. She has been featured in news articles, made the nightly news, and even landed a billboard! All the media attention arose around her 20-year anniversary of working at McDonald’s where she is in charge of the dining room. 


“She is like the restaurant ambassador. We can’t go anywhere in town without seeing people who know her,” explained Larry.


An impressive feat on its own, add to that her “stats”: her volunteer work as a Sunday school teacher; her generosity through her hobbies–Completing a puzzle nearly every week, Knowles donates them to the local Habitat for Humanity Restore; and her selflessness around the house, helping to care for her brother and mother. 


It’s a list of accomplishments that seems to inform her character in competition. For now, Knowles is focused on bocce. She’ll be practicing every Monday night until the 2018 SONC Fall Tournament, where she hopes to represent her county.


Whether she’s on the bocce court or smiling on the dining room floor, Knowles’s positivity radiates to everyone around her. And at the heart of it all, that’s the best “stat.”

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