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 Olympics athletes.”
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!