You’ve probably heard about Starr Kluttz. Ask her if she’s famous, and she’ll tell you, “Yes, I am!”
Kluttz is a swimmer who will represent North Carolina at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, July 25 to Aug. 2. She’ll attend a big send-off party on July 20, then fly to Los Angeles with the North Carolina delegation the next day.
You may have read about Kluttz, a Rimertown native, and her athletic accomplishments. But it’s going to take a lot more than training in the pool to get Kluttz to Los Angeles. It’s taking a community.
I met her at a fundraiser in her honor at Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Rimertown. Kluttz, who turned 52 at the end of June, has attended church there, serving as an usher and helping with vacation Bible school, all her life. As we talked, Kluttz repeatedly excused herself to greet friends and accept congratulations from her supporters. The best thing about attending Special Olympics events, she says, is getting to meet new people and making new friends. And it’s clear that Kluttz has a lot of friends and supporters.
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For 25 years, Kluttz has worked at the McDonald’s on Cabarrus Avenue in Concord. Manager Beth Murphy says the restaurant wouldn’t be the same without her. Kluttz maintains the lobby and greets customers, Murphy explained, adding that she “comes in smiling every day.” In June, Kluttz’s co-workers and customers celebrated her Special Olympics selection at a party with balloons, cake, flowers, and an appearance by Ronald McDonald. “We’re so proud of her,” Murphy said. She hopes they’ll be able to stay in contact with Kluttz while she’s in California, and wishes they could be there to cheer her on.
Kluttz won’t be without a familiar face on her trip. Though neither her mother, Sylvia, nor her brother, Keith, are able to travel, Kluttz’s cousin, Beth Lomax will be there to cheer Kluttz on, send reports home, and do a little sightseeing. Kluttz says she wants to go to the beach. Lomax suggested visiting Rodeo Drive or Hollywood Boulevard, trying to spot some movie stars. Kluttz, who likes to watch reruns of the 1970s TV show “Emergency!” says she’d like to meet its lead character, John Gage.
So many people, Lomax said, have “embraced the opportunity to help Starr.” Donations from businesses and individuals will help with the expenses for Kluttz’s three-week trip. The Concord Swim Club has allowed her the opportunity to train in an outdoor pool, and volunteer coaches are helping with her strokes, endurance, turns and dives.
The event at Cross of Christ – a hamburger and hot dog lunch – raised $2,500, according to organizer Suzanne Bost: “Now we can get Starr what she needs for the trip.”
“It’s a network,” Lomax said of the church, work and Special Olympics communities that have supported Kluttz. Now they’ll all get to cheer for her on a world stage.
The Special Olympics World Games will be broadcast on ESPN. Starr Kluttz’s friends are planning to set up a Facebook page where fans can get reports on her trip from Beth Lomax.
Marcia Morris is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marcia? Email her at EasternCabarrusWriter@gmail.com