On Tuesday, December 4 the 2012 Special Olympics Bowling Competition was held at the Milford Bowling Lanes. Over 1,500 athletes from across the state of Delaware competed in the tournament this year that took place during the month of December. 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 Officer Joey Melvin, athlete Henry Herrera Paz and peer partner Layne Smith kicked off the annual event. 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.
“For the athletes the event is really an opportunity for them to show off what they have practiced and to be competitive,” commented Gary Cimaglia, Senior Director of Sports at Special Olympics Delaware. “For the peer partners they find a relationship that they may not have expected and really begin to see their partner as a friend.”
Bowlers Riley Barker and Emma Moorman 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 girls have been partners for two years and have fun supporting each other throughout the school year.
“We play soccer, basketball and bowling together, bowling is my favorite, it is fun,” commented Riley, 3rd grader from Banneker. “It feels nice to have Emma here.”
“It’s been fun and I like helping Riley,” commented Emma, 4th grader from Banneker. “I showed her which ball was the lightest and how to make it go faster. She asks a lot of questions and is really nice.”
The SODE Bowling Tournament was 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.
“By starting them at a young age we hope that the athletes and the peer partners continue their compassion for each other as they get older,” commented Ruth Couglam, Director of Communications for SODE. “It is so great to see the support of all the families that were here today to cheer on their kids, they look forward to this event all year long.”