Special kids enjoy bowling league

January 03, 1998

Special kids enjoy bowling league


Staff Writer

Patrick Speaker usually bowls in the 70s but Saturday, he got an 85.

Not bad for any 10-year-old, but Patrick has cerebral palsy.

Patrick was just one of dozens of youngsters, some as young as 6, who were knocking down the pins at Longmeadow Bowl Saturday with the Challenge Division of Bowling League.

For a couple of hours each week, they forget their disabilities and concentrate on their abilities ... and just having fun.


"I'm getting pretty good at this,'' Patrick said, beaming a smile that was infectious.

He and the others in the unique league get together every Saturday from October to April - for fun, for exercise and for sharing the joy of accomplishment.

"The idea of this league actually started in 1990 with a baseball team for developmentally delayed or disabled children,'' said Dave Carpenter, one of the league organizers.

Carpenter explained that children with special needs can't always get out and sled ride or build snowmen like other kids in the winter.

Bowling fulfills that need to play that every child has, no matter what.

Organized seven years ago by Vicki Rutherford and Elaine Stoneberger, the league has been growing in size and popularity ever since.

Currently the league is coordinated by Carpenter, Tracy Speaker and Debbie McFerren.

"We say it is for ages 6 through 21,'' Speaker said. "But anyone already in the league at 21 can stay.''

There are 10 teams and they are mixed in age, ability and disability. The youngest is 6 and the oldest, 25.

Some of the bowlers are in wheelchairs. Others are blind or have cerebral palsy, Down's Syndrome, mental retardation and epilepsy at various levels of mobility.

The kids in wheelchairs use a ramp which was specially designed and built by parents. The metal cage allows the bowler to place the ball on a track that sends it down the lane.

"There is also a bumper we use that keeps the ball from always going in the gutter,'' Speaker said.

McFerren said the league has fund-raisers throughout the year - to raise funds and awareness. Flyers go out in the schools from time to time.

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