The YMCA Saturday Strikers bowling program is a league for mentally or physically disabled kids and adults and has been operating for over forty years. The program does not require a YMCA membership and is offered 42 weeks out of the year. Last year over160 individuals participated. The Y pays for two games of bowling, shoe rental, and transportation if needed. It is completely subsidized by the YMCA Strong Kids fund at a cost of almost $30,000 a year.
DeShaun, an 11-year-old autistic boy who attends Jefferson Middle School, has been in the bowling program for the past two years. DeShaun’s grandmother, Stephanie, cares for him and accompanies him to the bowling alley. She said, “This program is a fantastic avenue for both children and adults who have special needs. They have so much love and camaraderie for each other. It just lifts me up when I am there. I am so blessed and grateful DeShaun is part of this program.”
DeShaun has shown remarkable progress since he started in the program. He is more social and focused. Kathryn Andruch, Saturday Striker bowling coordinator, said, “DeShaun has really come a long way. When he first started in the bowling program, waiting his turn was hard for him so he would bowl in his own lane because it was less of a distraction. Now he bowls without a ramp, plays in a group with other kids, and has learned to take turns.”
This program is a win, win for so many. Participants get much needed exercise and socialization, parents get a respite from their daily care and supervision, and volunteers are inspired and uplifted by the participants’ dedication and commitment. Once the athletes arrive at the bowling alley, the boundaries and limitations they live with daily disappear and they simply concentrate on having fun!