Did you know that 15-20% of American’s have special needs or disabilities? Many people do not understand people with disabilities because they have not taken the time to interact with people outside of their own comfort zone. It was a few years ago (7 or 8) that I decided to go practice bowling a few games at a local bowling center in Baltimore. That is when my life was changed forever.

When I arrived at the bowling alley, there was a new person at the centers front desk that put me alongside what would become great friends, Mike, Kevin, and Nate. When I would throw a strike, Nate would clap, Kevin and Mike would high-five. So, I did the same for them.

I spoke with their handler, Will, who would pick the three up at home and take them bowling and to lunch. Each was allotted a little money to pay their own way. After a few high fives, I went up to the counter and paid for their bowling without their knowledge. This gave Mike, Kevin, and Nate extra money for the lunch that would be used at Arundel Mills food court.

Many Thursday’s I would plan to stop by the bowling center to see and root for my new friends, along with paying for their bowling. One day, Nate asked me, “Mr. Doug are you going to pay?” This made me laugh and I said to Nate, ‘if you see this face, bowling is on me!’

From that day onwards, when I have bad days, I visit the bowling center. All I need to do is see my guys to cheer me up. The smiles and hugs are priceless!

This leads me up to the HAP bowling league for handicapped children and adults. My friend runs the league and her daughter, Amber, loves to bowl. Amber has blessed me with some of her drawings which I cherish and have them in my office for anyone to see.

I was hoping that this year I could help the league with Pizza days, maybe some Ceres bowling shirts or bowling equipment but with Covid, everything is on hold. I cannot wait for the day that the hugs and smiles come back.

If I had not visited the bowling center years ago, I would have never met my friends. On behalf of Autism Awareness Month, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and meet some new people. You never know who will change your life for the better.

Amber, who has autism, drew this picture for Doug Wolfe

 

Author: Doug Wolfe / VP of Operations Baltimore