Prince George Special Olympics Strikes Up Fun
By Ryan Lazo, Sports Editor
Oct 25, 2013, 09:03
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
FORT LEE — Briyon Rosas walks gingerly up to the slick hardwood of the bowling lane while cradling a pink bowling bowl. He peers intently down the lane, staring at the 10 pins in front of him.
Briyon widens his stance and in a two-hand motion swings the ball back between his legs before letting it roll toward the red-striped pins. As the ball moves further down the lane, it gains speed on the slick surface, striking the outside pins, causing a chain reaction.
Pins tumble down, hitting each other, nearly cleaning the lane with one strike. Behind Briyon, people begin the cheer loudly, high-faves are exchanged and immediately an ear-to-ear grin shows on Briyon’s face.
It’s the look of unbridled joy and pure excitement.
“He finally feels like he’s a part of something,” Margaret Rosas said of her son Briyon. “He didn’t feel successful in other sports. For the first time in his life, he feels like he belongs.”
And that’s the aim of Special Olympics Program of Prince George.
After an 11-year absence, the program received a $1,500 grant from Prince George Promise, an organization which helps with the needs of youth within the community. It’s the jump-start Ken Robinson needed to revitalize the program which has laid dormant since 2002.
But even with the grant, Robinson has limited monetary resources to work with, relying entirely on donations. It’s the reason why holding an event at the bowling alley proved enticing.
“The accessibility and economics were both pretty reasonable,” Robinson explained. “The fact that it’s a recreational sport and they can do it anytime with their families also stood out.”
Families are the true backbone of what Robinson is attempting to accomplish with the rebirth of the program. It’s the family members of the children who support them each day that don't receive support themselves.
The opportunity to attend events with other families brings about a social environment not just for the children, but for their parents as well. Mike Birchett is the father of twins — Kyle and Kolby — and he says the events help parents bond over different solutions to similar difficulties they face.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
“It’s great to meet other people who go through the same struggles and victories that you do with having children of special needs,” Birchett explained. “Both of my children have special needs, but luckily they are both functioning, loving children and they give back everything you put in and more.”
Birchett represented one of the six families who were present for the first recreational event at Fort Lee’s Bowling Center. He, like many of the parents, stood in the background and watched intently as the children exhibited sheer enthusiasm for what they were able to do.
The event marked just the first step for the young bowlers.
Each child needed to bowl 15 games to have an average to be able to place them in the proper division when the time comes to face other Special Olympics’ teams.
“We want to be able to have them at the right competition level for later on,” Robinson said.
Because not only were these kids allowed to enjoy being around each other while bowling, but they are being trained to be a part of a team, something many of them have never had a chance to do.
In the midst of the party atmosphere, each child learned techniques taught by Robinson’s partner, Kathleen Mitchell, who acts as the bowling coach. Mitchell is no stranger to the game having been a part of numerous teams in the past and currently is on a bowling team, but this is her first foray into teaching.
Yet, far more important than the teaching, she displays her love for allowing the children to have fun with her smile as each child knocks down any amount of pins.
“These kids look forward to this all week,” Mitchell said. “They are just so excited to be able to participate it’s all they talk about.”
Soon the program will grow to multiple sports such as basketball as participation grows, allowing more children to be front and center instead of in the background.
“I think it’s great for him to be around children with the same disabilities where they can all get together and enjoy each other,” Birchett said of his son’s at the event. “This allows him to go out and be the one everyone focuses on.”
And with more participation, other families and children can experience the same feeling of joy.
They can be like Kyle Birchett who ran across the hardwood before sliding the bowling bowl toward the pins with his own technique. Upon it colliding, he ran to his father, excitement splattered across his face.
With the smile, the Special Olympics program’s first event accomplished its goal — bringing joy to children and their families.