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Local lanes host Special Olympics bowling competition; Hundreds of athletes participate in events

By Staff | Sep 29, 2008

This weekend hundreds of special needs athletes competed in the Lee County Special Olympics Bowling Competition.

On Saturday, the competition opened at both Friendship Lanes in Cape Coral and Pin Street Lanes, formerly Galaxy Lanes, in Fort Myers. Cape Coral hosted approximately 200 athletes in doubles, teams and ramp competitions while Fort Myers hosted 300 in the singles.

Dorothy Barilla, senior recreation specialist for Lee County Parks & Recreation, said that this time of the year Special Olympics athletes are in bowling season and in January they start track and field. She’s been working with the Special Olympics since 1998.

This weekend’s event brought Olympians from Lee, Collier, Manatee, DeSoto and Collier counties. Before coming to Cape Coral, those athletes competed in their local County Games and then first place winners moved onto the Area Games this weekend.

In Saturday’s competition, each bowler played two games and reported their scores to officials. First-place winners were determined in many different divisions based on score and age.

Winners from this weekend will go to the State Fall Classic at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex.

The opening ceremony for Saturday’s games were hosted at the Pin Street Lanes and featured the national anthem as well as an address from a special needs public speaker in the Athletic Leadership Program – which Barilla explained trains people with special needs to talk about the Special Olympics.

“They talk about how to get involved and what happened with them,” said Barilla. “A lot of athletes physically can’t talk to people and they are trained.”

Those athletes who were in wheelchairs or unable to carry bowling balls participated in a modified version of the game called “ramp bowling.” Metallic ramps stood in the front of each alley, and with the help of an assistant, these athletes were able to aim and release the ball.

“The bowling ramps are for people who have fine motor skill difficulties, can’t use their hands or are in a wheelchair,” said Carol Brotherton, a staff member and 37-year veteran of the Special Olympics.

Brotherton explained that ramp bowling isn’t just dropping the ball on the ramp. It requires analysis and precision.

“I learned the fine skill of ramp bowling a couple of weeks ago,” she said.

Other athletes were in a two-man unified team, which Barilla explained consisted of a typical and special needs participant. Some special needs athletes competed alongside their brothers, sisters or friends.

Overall, officials from this weekend’s Special Olympic games stressed that everyone leaves a winner.