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Cheering on Special Olympics bowlers in Wauwatosa

Jan. 14, 2013

Growing up in the Milwaukee area, I've spent a fair amount of time in bowling alleys.

My parents played on a weekend league when I was young and I distinctly remember my sister as a toddler taking her first "potty shot" and getting a strike. As a Girl Scout, I earned a badge for learning the rules and etiquette of the game as well as the best approach, where to aim and the follow-through of the throw. Then there was high school gym class, where we took the bus to the alley to play and had an exam on scoring. That helped with the weekends, when my girlfriends and I went moonlight bowling for the late-night mix of music, bowling and boys.

All that being said, I'm very good at scoring. As for playing, I could be much better.

So when Special Olympics Wisconsin advertised a need for volunteers at its 2012 state tournament for the southern part of the state at AMF Bowlero Lanes, 11737 W. Burleigh St., I decided to lend a hand.

People were needed to keep an eye on the automatic scoring machines (yes, there were errors made by technology that day), escort athletes to the correct lanes and present awards to the winners. The biggest job was simply to be a cheerleader - applaud, give out high-fives and make sure each player had a cheering section.

Many of the 315 athletes came with their own entourage. Family and friends filled Bowlero and showed an amazing amount of support for their Special Olympians. The athletes played in teams of four and were quick to have a reassuring word for their teammates as well as their opponents on the next lane.

Thirteen of the athletes, ranging in age from 15 to 51, call Wauwatosa home. Taylor Krueger, 18, took first in her division, while David Schoenecker, 42, and Mark Olson, 51, came in third in their respective divisions.

To participate in Special Olympics, athletes must be age 8 or older and have been identified as having an "intellectual disability," spokeswoman Christina Harris said.

Kids younger than 8 can get involved in Special Olympics Wisconsin's Young Athletes program.

Bowling is the most popular of the 17 sports that Special Olympics provides year-round training and competition opportunities for. In Wauwatosa, the local agency has more than 100 athletes and more than 150 coaches and volunteers that participate in bowling, basketball, track and field, soccer, golf and bocce.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the Special Olympics Wisconsin-Greater Milwaukee Region 8 office at (262) 241-7786.

"Volunteers are at the heart of Special Olympics," Harris said. "Special Olympics Wisconsin could not hold 137 competitions, five state games, and hundreds of fundraisers across the year without the support of more than 10,000 volunteers across the state. Witnessing the joy of our athletes as they make friends and earn medals is so rewarding and we often see the same people coming back to volunteer year after year."

Stefanie Scott is a former Tosa NOW reporter who enjoys staying active in the community. Invite her to take part in your event, meet your favorite social group or experience a local hotspot by sending an email to reporterstef@gmail.com.

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