Hannah McNeice has been bowling since she was eight years old. Her mother, Mary Ellen, started a special needs bowling program in Chatham. After a few years, the program started to dwindle. It was about that time, that Hannah joined the YMCA Saturday Strikers Bowling program. They have not looked back since.

The YMCA Saturday Strikers Bowling program has been in existence for over thirty years. The program is offered to individuals with disabilities. Bowling is one of a few sports that can be adapted for any ability. Because of this, the Saturday Strikers Bowling program has grown significantly in the last few years. The program currently supports about 75 bowlers a week. The Strike ‘n’ Spare Bowling Alley is full about forty Saturday mornings a year with our bowlers. Almost every lane is occupied.

The program is offered to both members and non-members of the YMCA and is completely subsidized at a cost over $25,000 a year. The YMCA Strong Kids Fund along with generous Saturday Strikers donors fund this program. The program offers two games of bowling and shoe rental. For many, transportation is a major issue. The Saturday Strikers Bowling program alleviates this problem by providing transportation to and from the alley for those that need it.

Hannah misses very few bowling Saturdays. Consequently, she has become a very good bowler. Her bowling skills have steadily improved with years of practice, coaching and encouragement from this program’s amazing staff. Hannah and many other bowlers from Saturday Strikers participate in the local Special Olympics bowling competition each August. Gold medal winners advance to regional and state competition. Hannah’s mom Mary Ellen proudly says, “We have so many medals, we can’t even count them.”

The program has not only been a great source of exercise for Hannah, but she has also made lifelong friends. Hannah says, “I love bowling. I get to come and meet new people. I encourage my friends to do better, and I cheer on my teammates.” The program spends one day a month on bowling technique so the bowlers can sharpen their skills. Hannah’s mom explains that Saturday Strikers has provided Hannah with more than exercise. It is a place to see old friends, make new ones, improve fine and large motor skills, and boost confidence.

Keeping busy and staying involved has been a good thing for Hannah and her parents. In addition to bowling, Hannah competes in 5k races. Her dad is an avid runner. Running gives them an opportunity to do something together. She has also participated in basketball, cheerleading and track. Hannah works hard and enjoys all the different sports that are offered by Special Olympics.
In addition to all her fun time, Hannah has a job. She works for Renken Dentistry in Chatham. Hannah prepares the patients for the dentist, cleans, vacuums and takes the trash out. This job is preparing Hannah to become more independent.

When Hannah was a child communicating was a challenge, so her parents were encouraged to have her learn sign language. Today, she uses what she learned at an early age to help others. Hannah has been asked on several occasions to sign the National Anthem at Special Olympic Events.

When speaking about Hannah, Jill Steiner, Human Resource Director for the Y and Saturday Strikers Bowling program director, says, “It has been a joy having Hannah and her family be a part of the Saturday Strikers Bowling program. Hannah’s parents are inclusive and welcoming to all. They are very aware of Hannah’s needs, but also the needs of those around them. They have shown Hannah how to be independent and supportive of others. Hannah’s love of the sport and her encouragement of others is beautiful and inspiring. We could not be any prouder of these bowlers and what they bring to our program.”

By, Lynn