Unified Bowling Fosters Friendships, Builds Community

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Unified Bowling Fosters Friendships, Builds Community

Cassady Darr, Reporter

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Unified Bowling has started again for its 4th year at our school. Unified Bowling is coached by a fellow student’s mother, Crystal Harrison. Harrison has been the bowling team coach for all four seasons. She helps coordinate team practices and their partners.

“Special Olympics were my way of getting my son and his peers in front of the school,” Harrison said. “And creating friendships between our Special Education students and their typical peers.”

The team has 20 bowlers this year, that is the most the team has ever had. The majority of these participants are out of the special needs classrooms at ER. Student volunteers attend practices and games to help the students improve their scores and learn to be a team player.

“More importantly, we are hoping to have fun and encourage our friends,” Harrison said.

Harrison’s goal for the team is that they place in every category. This year, the team has six Unified Doubles as well as five assisted ramp bowlers. A Unified Double is a Special Olympics athlete paired with a peer partner.

“I’m very excited to have six Unified Doubles teams entered in the tournament this year,” Harrison said.

According to Harrison, the best part of Unified sports are the friendships. The time spent together and the work they put in really helps the team succeed. Harrison sees her position as coach as a way to help these kids get introduced to friends.

“My job is to create an environment that is open to fostering friendships,” Harrison said. “The athletes and peer partners do the rest.”

Brenda Schrader, one of our special education teachers, helps with transportation and the ramp assisted bowlers. Schrader really sees an improvement in her students when participating in bowling. Schrader believes Unified Bowling helps in all areas, socially and behaviorally.  

“Everyone needs to work on social skills, no matter what your gender, ability or disability is,” Schrader said. “Being social helps everyone become a part of their community and lets people know who you are as a person.”

With Schrader helping the team, she has similar goals for her students in the bowling team. Her goals for the kids are to keep having fun while helping each other out, and for the team to keep growing with athletes and peer partners.

“Our athletes are just like everyone else, they love having friends, people cheering them on and vice versa,” Schrader said. “This is an opportunity to make new friends and a lifetime of memories and friendships.  It really does open your eyes and gives you a whole new outlook on life.”

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