Special Olympians find bowling right up their alley
WINDHAM — Not everyone came home with a bronze, silver or gold medal, but the majority of Special Olympics athletes competing in Saturday's regional bowling tournament left Park Place Lanes with a smile.
The event was one of several held over the weekend at various bowling alleys across the state.
About 70 developmentally challenged athletes, ranging in age from 8 to 90, participated at the Windham tournament, including teams and individual athletes from Derry, Windham, Salem, Pelham, Manchester and surrounding towns.
Staff from the Plaistow Police Department assisted at the closing ceremonies, handing out medals to the winning athletes.
Eric Bodenrader, a coach for the Derry Timberwolves team, said the bowling tournament is one of the more popular events.
The 19 members on the Timberwolves were well prepared, he said, since they practice their skills every week in the town's gymnasium.
"They're definitely ready," Bodenrader said at the start of the games.
Marcia Gardner, a Pelham resident who serves as the state athletic coordinator, said she initially became involved in the organization about 23 years ago, when her daughter was an athlete.
Gardner's daughter is now in her early 30s and is no longer competing in the Special Olympics, but Gardener found she couldn't stay away long.
"It's incredible how this program has grown," she said.
Gardner said, the organization's athletic leadership program, where athletes are trained to serve as program ambassadors, is particularly close to her heart.
Derry resident Dave Morency said he's watched his own daughter, Kerry, blossom throughout her years in the program, which he said helped make her the determined and confident young woman she is today.
Kerry Morency, now 38, began competing in the games when she was 12 and is now an athletic leader for the program.
Morency said bowling is a "close second favorite," though she's looking forward to the winter months when she can strap on her cross-country skis.
"It's all about competing, and I think more people should try it," Morency said of the Special Olympics.
Her advice to those new to the program?
"Just get out there and try your best," Morency said. "You may just get a medal when you're at it."