Special Olympics strikes out with bowling team

After its successful launch of a junior bowling team last season, Enumclaw’s Special Olympics program is launching a high school team.

“The junior team last year brought home a lot of gold medals and silver medals from competition,” coach Bonnie Kennedy said of the 8- to 15-year-olds who participated.

A senior team at the high school allows 16- to 21-year-olds to get into the game. There are also plans for a master team for adults.

What Kennedy emphasizes and likes about the high school team is it’s open to both special needs athletes and those without who can play as part of the unified team. Peer mentors compete alongside Special Olympic athletes.

“It’s a way for students to give back through community service,” said Ramsey Graham, who also leads the program.

Both said skills are taught from the bottom up, but more importantly athletes form friendships and relationships that last a lifetime.

The team takes advantage of the school district’s early-release Fridays for practice. This year, Special Olympics has partnered with the city of Enumclaw Parks and Recreation Department to transport athletes from the high school to Daffodil Lanes in Puyallup for a one-time $20 fee.

“It will be fun this year,” Kennedy said.

For Graham, the addition of a high school program is welcome for wheelchair athletes.

“It’s one sport our wheelchair athletes can participate in and do well,” Graham said. “My daughter uses a wheelchair ramp and has a 78 average.”

So far four wheelchair bowlers have joined.

Kennedy said the Daffodil Bowl owner has built a special ramp to get the electric wheelchairs to the lanes and devised a ball-release ramp to assist athletes.

“For him to build our equipment is above and beyond,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said the group also got help from the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation, which provided a grant to purchase two special adaptive bowling balls that have retractable handles.

For more information or join the team at enumclawspecialolympics.com or Enumclaw Parks and Recreation.