Nearly 200 children and teens from Sussex County put their skills on the lane to the test Tuesday when Milford Bowl hosted the Special Olympics Bowling Tournament.
“I love bowling with my friends and today I’m hoping to go on to win a gold medal,” said 17-year-old Kaleb Hudson, a junior at Milford High School. “My average is 110 and I’ve got a 95 right now with a couple of frames left to go.”
Hudson was among the dozens of students from Milford schools who competed in Tuesday’s event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The local competition was one of six bowling tournaments Special Olympics Delaware sponsored throughout the state this week.
Bowlers in those tournaments played two games in one of several categories, including bumper for younger children, ramp for athletes in wheelchairs, singles, doubles and unified doubles in which Special Olympics athletes team up with non-disabled partners.
“Bowling is one of our most popular sports,” said Gary Cimaglia, the senior director of sports for Special Olympics Delaware. “One of the neatest things about our athletes participating in bowling is that they can then transfer what they learn when they have opportunities to bowl with friends and family, which is a very popular thing to do over the upcoming holidays.”
Kaleb’s mother, Cordelia Zook, said that opportunity to foster friendship is what she likes best about Special Olympics events like this week’s bowling tournament.
“Obviously, kids with disabilities, like Kaleb, don’t get a lot of chances to shine,” she said. “Things like this really help to boost their confidence and help them feel like a better person.”
Zook said the inclusion of unified partners also goes a long way to help remove the stigma disabled children can feel amongst their peers.
“If the other kids only see them at school, there is a tendency to judge a book by its cover,” she said. “By interacting together as partners in settings like this, kids on different levels get the opportunity to know each other, and that helps foster an understanding that they otherwise wouldn’t have.”
Special Olympic athlete Makhi Peacock and his unified partner Josh Blandino, both fifth graders at Lulu Ross Elementary School, said they might not have met if not for their school’s Special Olympics bowling team.
“We’re in different classes, but now we’re friends and we have fun together,” Josh said. “We help each other out and give each other tips, like today he’s doing good and I’m not playing my best, so he’s giving me pointers.”
Makhi said he and Josh plan to carry their partnership over into other athletic endeavors.
“After this, we’re both going to play basketball,” he said. “We’re hoping we get to be on the same team together because we have fun.”