Supporters of Iredell County Special Olympians held a special send-off for the local athletes Friday before the local delegation left for the summer games in Raleigh.


Dozens of supporters and family members gathered at Statesville Fitness Center on Friday to give 91 athletes and their coaches a warm send-off before they departed for the 2024 Special Olympic North Carolina summer games Raleigh.

Community members formed two lines and as athletes walked past them they gave them high fives, took pictures and wished them good luck.

One of the younger members Iredell County delegation is 13-year-old Connor Troutman.

“This is his first Olympic games. He will compete in basketball skills,” said his mom Jennifer Troutman, who is his biggest fan.

Connor captured the hearts of many when he delivered the Athletes Oath during the Iredell County spring games. A rising eighth-grader at North Iredell Middle School, he has four siblings and he loves his mom the most.

With an infectious smile, Connor relished each moment as it unfolded Friday, mingling easily with the other athletes, taking pictures with family and enjoying the fanfare.

He knows that not all athletes receive medals, but with some encouragement from his mom, it’s slowly starting to sink in that he could win one this weekend.

Powerlifter Jonathan Humes, 30, said that the Special Olympics has taught him valuable lessons.

“I do this for the fun of it. I do it for the friends and family that I truly care about. It’s not about the strength and muscles, but about cheering people on and having support,” he explained.

Humes said his mom is the most important person in his life. She couldn’t come to see him in person because of some health problems.

“I’m going to bring in the gold for everyone — for my friends, for my family, including my own mother,” he said.

Team bowling athlete and Harmony resident Mark Brown, 58, has returned to the Special Olympics after a 40-year hiatus. His family thought that this would be a good way to get involved in the community after his mom passed away this year.

His niece, Beth Thompson, described Brown as a competitive person. He likes to hug and is a friend to every person he encounters.

“We’ve been practicing, working real hard at this and getting ready for this for a long time,” Brown said. “It’s been quite an amazing experience for me — having my family around me. I’ve had a couple competitions that I’ve been in.”

He’s placed second twice and received three ribbons during the Statesville games.

Local coordinator Bobbi Williams said that the community has made every athlete feel supported and so loved.

“Our community is so tremendously supportive of us and are so good to these athletes. We could not do what we do for them without the community support. We never charge the athletes to pay to compete in any sports,” Williams said.

The organization receives a monthly $2 donation from a nursing home resident and enjoys generous support from corporate sponsors. Every donation benefits the athletes, covering transportation, food and housing in Raleigh.

“We are thankful, not only for the financial support, but for the love. They pour a lot of love on us,” Williams said.

About the Iredell athletes

Iredell athletes and unified partners, individuals without intellectual disabilities, from across the state will compete in athletics, basketball skills, bowling, powerlifting, swimming, and volleyball. Athletes will compete for medals and have an opening ceremony, social event and other activities throughout the weekend.

According to Williams, some of the local athletes have been training for an entire year for this weekend. Others started in February.