On Tuesday, February 25 the 2014 Special Olympics Bowling Competition was held at the Milford Bowling Lanes. Over 900 athletes from across the state of Delaware competed in the tournament this year that took place during the month of February. Beginning as an official Special Olympics of Delaware (SODE) sport in 1978, bowling has become the most popular sport among SODE athletes with more than 17,000 bowlers over its history.
The event opened with the Special Olympics Torch ceremony as Benjamin Banneker Elementary’s Unified Partner team of Michael Carter and Leon Kelly introduced the emcee for the event and Riley Baker and her partner Emma Moorman of Banneker threw out the ceremonial first ball of the day.
As with several other SODE events, athletes are paired with peer partners from the same school to encourage students of all abilities to have fun and participate. The athlete-peer partner relationship is an ongoing partnership that is built through competition and mutual support throughout the school year. In order to prepare for this year’s SODE Bowling Tournament students had eight weeks of training at the lanes.
“Bowling is one of our most popular sports in schools,” says Gary Cimaglia, SODE senior director of sports. “One of the neatest things about our athletes participating in bowling is that they can then transfer what they learn when they have opportunities to bowl with friends and family outside of the school day.”
Bowlers Jeremiah Rykard and Nicholas Hudson from Benjamin Banneker Elementary School in Milford participated in Tuesday’s event and were among the athletes and peer partners that brought home medals. The boys have been partners for several years and have fun supporting each other throughout the school year.
“[The event] was good, I liked having fun and bowling,” commented athlete Jeremiah. “My partner taught me how to bowl and where to put my fingers in the ball.”
The athlete-unified partner relationship is a model that allows both the athletes and the partners to learn from each other, in competition and around school. “[The event] was very fun, I liked being able to play a few games with my partner,” commented Nicholas. “Jeremiah has been able to teach me that anyone is able to do anything, be good at it and have fun while doing it.”
The SODE Bowling Tournament was once again a huge success, filling all 16 lanes of the Milford Bowling Lanes with athletes, peer partners and families watching the excitement. Special Olympics of Delaware hopes that introducing children to the Special Olympics programs at an early age will foster the lifelong ideals of sharing, understanding and friendship.
Special Olympics Delaware provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for 3,500 children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. Families that are interested in becoming more involved with SODE are encouraged to contact Special Olympics of Delaware at 302-831-4653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.