For those old enough to remember, there used to be a local television show called Bowling for Dollars. Each week several of the top South Florida bowlers would compete for a modest amount of prize money. The theme song for the show was Live it Up, Go Bowling.
Not many of the athletes competing in the Miami-Dade County Special Olympics Bowling Tournament were even born when the show aired, but somehow they got the message. They are living it up.
Special Olympics Miami-Dade County, one of the largest Special Olympics programs in the country, held its bowling competition at Bird Bowl Lanes. Over 1,000 bowlers eight years old and up participated during a two-week period. They were classified by age, gender and ability level. These special athletes are developmentally or intellectually delayed in one form or another. Some are autistic, while others are emotionally or mentally handicapped.
Others are afflicted with Cerebral Palsy or Down Syndrome. Despite their disabilities, they fiercely compete and enjoy the sport, whether they earn a first place ribbon, which could qualify them for the Special Olympics State Fall Classic on Nov. 5-6 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, or fall short of victory. Either way, they are “living it up.”
“All of these kids have a great time,” said Manuel Cabrera, a coach from Cutler Ridge Middle School. “No matter what ribbon they earn, they walk away with a happy face.”
Lilliana Ceballos, a special education teacher at Tropical Elementary and one of the coaches, calls the Special Olympics athletes amazing individuals. Ceballos was generally referring to all the bowlers, but specifically to the severely disabled wheelchair athletes who cannot lift or toss a bowling ball on their own, but use a metal ramp to help guide the ball down the lane. Some of the athletes are able to aim the ramp, set the ball on the ramp by themselves and push the ball; some need assistance.
According to long time Special Olympics coach David Willis, there is one very talented adult Special Olympics bowler, Sidney Goldblum from the Community Habilitation Center.
Goldblum, who is wheelchair-bound, sometimes uses the guiding ramp and sometimes bowls without assistance. Willis has witnessed Goldblum actually put a curve on the ball by placing it a certain way on the ramp. With this technique he has bowled games over 170, according to Willis.
Ramp bowling – both assisted and unassisted – is one of the Special Olympics divisions at the State Fall Classic. There are also age divisions, ability level divisions, team doubles, team pairs (where a Special Olympics bowler is teamed up with a non-handicapped bowler) and female and male divisions. No matter what division they are in or if they win or don’t come out on top, you can expect a Special Olympics athlete to compete to the best of their ability and have a good time doing it.
As Aaron Rodriguez, a student at Cutler Ridge Middle School said after failing to qualify for the State Fall Classic, but earning a third place ribbon, “I’m proud.”
For more information, contact Special Olympics Miami-Dade County at 305-406- 9467 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.