Special Olympics athlete Jordan Hofstad left Casper late last month with promises to dominate in cross-country skiing. He returned from the World Winter Games a bronze medalist.
The competition wasn’t as easy as the 16-year-old had expected, though.
“It was a lot harder and I was really not expecting hills,” he said.
Hofstad, who has high-functioning autism, has been skiing for six years. He is a sophomore at Natrona County High School, where he participates on the cross-country ski team and played on the football team last fall.
While Hofstad’s skills earned him the bronze medal, along with fourth- and seventh-place ribbons, a cadre of support helped him get to the 2013 World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“There’s been so many people that have really been supportive of him and behind him,” Jordan’s mother, Cathie Christie, said.
High school cross-country ski team and Special Olympics coaches have helped Hofstad improve, and Hofstad’s twin, Jared, picked up the sport to help motivate his brother. Relatives also donated money for costs associated with the trip, as did complete strangers.
Jeremiah Isbell, a server at Famous Dave’s restaurant and former Marine, saw Hofstad’s bucket for donations at a local gas station. He put in $5 and started to walk away when he stopped, returned and gave his contact information to the clerk, who passed it on to the family.
Not long after, Christie contacted Isbell and he expressed his desire to help.
“She did whatever she could to send him there, and I thought I could do whatever I could to help,” he said.
The night of Hofstad’s return from South Korea, Isbell coordinated a dinner. He was on vacation and unable to attend, but left an envelope for the family that outmatched his earlier donation. The envelop contained $500 – a portion of the slot machine jackpot Isbell won last year in Deadwood, S.D.
Isbell and Hofstad recently met for the first time when Isbell surprised the skier with a visit on Casper Mountain.
Christie said she is glad her son competed in the World Games but is also happy to have him home. The two weeks her son was in South Korea were the longest they’ve been apart.
“He called right when the plane hit the tarmac in L.A.,” she said. “It was really nice to have him home. We all missed him a lot.”
Hofstad said he was grateful for the opportunity to represent Wyoming in the Special Olympics World Games and had a great time outside the competition as well. He especially enjoyed visiting local towns to experience Korean culture, such as an acrobat routine.
“I loved it,” he said. “It was a really neat experience for me.”