One of the tough things about having a child with special needs is that while your friends’ kids are involved in all sorts of extracurricular activities, your child feels left out. Jeffrey was always a trooper, but when we heard about a Special Olympics Bowling League, we were all so excited! I quickly got on the phone with the main contact, who assured me that the kids involved had all sorts of disabilities – and all were welcome!
Another great thing was that the school district had buses that went directly from the school to the bowling alley, so the kids felt they had a special “outing” to go to after school – just like so many of the other kids did who were involved in sporting events.
Of course I definitely needed to show up the first couple times Jeffrey went – what would it be like?
The first week I got there when the buses were unloading, and it just blessed my socks off to see the volunteers embracing all these special kids as they herded them inside the bowling alley.
But how would they do it with a kid like Jeffrey who wasn’t able to physically pick up a bowling ball and roll it down the alley? They had ball ramps that the bowling alleys provided!
However, as everyone got to their lanes, I was again disheartened to see that Jeffrey was the only one in a wheelchair – and that they put him in a lane all by himself! Yes, my mommy-heart was bleeding again… Would he never have friends to blend in with?
Yet Jeffrey didn’t seem to mind, and in no time at all he got very good at instructing the volunteer in charge as to where he wanted the ball ramp placed. Then they placed the bowling ball on the ramp for him and held it until he got his hand on it to push it down the ramp.
To make it even a greater blessing, one of the guys volunteering taught him how important it was to make sure the 3 holes in the bowling ball were lined up in a certain position. Because depending on how the holes were lined up, that was how the ball would come off the ramp (i.e. placing the holes a little to the left or right of the center would make the ball veer more to the right or left).
We discovered rather quickly that Jeffrey did not like to get anything but strikes! But as time went on he really paid attention to the ball/ramp alignment, and he really did a great job.
And the end of the bowling season was awesome! The Special Olympics group had a big bowling banquet for all the kids – just like a real sports team! And in Special Olympics style, they made sure that all the kids received trophies to make them feel special. Plus they provided pizza, salad, dessert and drinks for everyone!
I can still remember Jeffrey’s face when they called out his name to come up to receive his trophy. I don’t think I ever saw him wheel himself so quickly anywhere as he did that night to head up to the stage. He was beaming ear-to-ear.
They also gave out a few special awards at the end of the ceremony. We had no idea what was coming, but all of a sudden the award for “Most Inspirational Player of the Year” was awarded, and it went to: JEFFREY KENNEDY! The reason? Jeffrey was chosen for always smiling and being ready to bowl. I was beside myself with tears as I saw him once again go up to the front of the stage.
And since there were so few kids in the region in wheelchairs, he was often invited to the regional bowling tournament. I was a wreck, but Jeffrey stayed on course. He actually was turning out to be quite the competitor, and the one year when he placed 1st in the region was a very special day for all of us.
“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the LORD is good; and his love endures forever” Jer. 33:11.