WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A White Plains bowling league has built friendships between disabled and non-disabled kids during the course of nearly two months.
“We are creating relationships that would never be there before,” said White Plains special needs PTA co-chair Caroline Furry. “It is amazing. All the kids are just really neat individuals. We have two more weeks left in our season and the families are already talking about going again after the holidays.”
The 16-person league, ranging from 5 to 16 years old, is divided into four teams. Each four-member team has two kids with disabilities, which include ADHD, Down syndrome or autism. They play Sundays for an hour at AMF White Plains Lanes. Furry said the league was formed after a special needs PTA meeting discussion about the lack of recreational programming for kids with disabilities.
What impresses Furry the most is seeing how the non-disabled kids treat those who have a disability. Furry’s 13-year-old daughter Casey has Down syndrome and is a league member along with her 11-year-old brother, Jake, and 10-year-old sister, Meaghan.
“It’s nice because everyone’s celebrating each other’s successes. Nobody’s comparing themselves against anybody else. A lot of cheering going on and just relationship-building,” she said. “A lot of times, the moms that are there, we’re kind of standing off and just chit-chatting like any Little League game. Then you kind of look up and see the kids doing exactly what they should be doing like ‘great job, Ethan,’ ‘nice going’ or ‘hey, you’ll get it next time.’ I know my daughter in particular gets upset if she doesn’t get a strike. Strikes are hard to get, but they say, ‘Hey, you still did good. Don’t worry’ and a pat on the back."
That relationship-building on the lanes has carried over to friendships in the school hallways, including conversations started by Jake.
“He actually stopped one of the kids who has autism and had a conversation with him in the hallway,” she said. “I’m so proud of him that he didn't just say hi and then run by. He actually stopped, reintroduced himself, talked about the bowling so the guy could make the connection of where do I know this other student from. It was neat because how many kids stop in the hallway in middle school and talk to a disabled kid. You don’t see that.”
She was glad AMF decided to host the program and said they have been “very supportive” of the league.
“ They've been fabulous. They didn't put any restrictions on us,” she said. “Our kids are not as focused as others, so they can be kind of active in the bowling area lane. They actually gave us somebody that’s kind of dedicated to our lanes that if a ball gets stuck or if a kid is kind of maybe walking down a lane, he’ll say, ‘come on back’ and he’s been very kind. AMF has been great.”
After a successful first season, Furry is open to continuing the league again after the holidays. She plans on emailing the members’ parents to gauge their interest level in another season and then reach out to AMF about it.