ROCKINGHAM — Bowling is more than rolling a ball for the athletes competing in the Special Olympics Tuesday morning. For many, it’s an essential form of exercise and social activity.
“We’re ready,” said Chris Roscoe, 35, a member of the Terminators on Tuesday Night bowling team and an athlete competing in Tuesday’s games.
Roscoe’s teammate, Shawn Richardson, 25, said he’s been training for the Olympic games for about four months, but he’s been bowling since he was little. Richardson’s mother, Lori, said it gives him an outlet when people with handicaps are often left out of physical activities growing up.
“I just enjoy bowling,” said Richardson, who added his average score is a 99.
Now in its seventh year, the bowling portion of the games will have its highest participation in its history with 124 athletes, compared to an average of 75 to 80 in previous years. The athletes are students from eight schools in Richmond County as well as adults of varying skill levels and ages.
There are so many participants in fact, that with five weeks to go, the organizers had to schedule a last-minute fundraiser Monday night to help pay for the extra time they had to rent out Striker’s Bowling Center to accommodate the additional players, according to Richmond County Special Olympics Coordinator Theressa Smith.
Local businesses and residents sponsored 12 lanes for friendly competition between Striker’s regulars and amateurs who wanted to support the Olympics.
“I’m really excited about seeing the event grow,” Smith said. “We completely depend on the people in the community.”
Jeffrey McCormick, a member of the Earthbound Car and Truck Club, which was one of the sponsors, said he first became aware of the games when his friend’s nephew played in them and he and the rest of Earthbound decided they would support it in any way they could.
“I feel it should be supported more than football, basketball … It’s bigger than everything to me,” McCormick said. “I hope it grows more, it needs its support.”
Roy Crowder is on the advisory board of the Special Olympics and his grandson, Benjamin Bailey, who suffers from cerebral palsy, has participated all the events of the Olympics — bocce ball, bowling and the field events — for about 10 years. Crowder said Bailey looks forward to it all year round.
“He’ll compete as long as he’s able,” he said.
Susan Patrick said the games mean “the world” to her son, Greg Miller, who is also a Terminator and competing in Tuesday’s games.
“It’s done a ton for (Greg’s) self-esteem” over the four or five weeks he’d been training, she said. “It’s made a world of difference.”
The games will be held at Striker’s Bowling Center in Rockingham from 10 a.m. to noon.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]