‘Pin Pals’ rolls in for special needs children

By Scott Schlaufman

June 24, 2014

LUMBERTON — It’s 10 a.m. on a Tuesday but things are far from quiet at the Lumberton Bowling Center.

Taking up the far grouping of lanes is a set of teams with kids from around the county that feature name such as the Pinbusters, Orange Crushers and the Flamin’ Reds. Some of the players have wheelchairs, others walkers, and many require assistance getting the ball down the floor.

But as the ball nears the pins, each of the children finds a smile.

“It’s just another way to get our community doing something together,” said organizer Wanda Hester.

Collectively known as the Pin Pals, its a county-wide league that meets weekly to give children with special needs the opportunity to play a sport. It builds off the success of the county’s Exceptional Childrens Baseball League, which was initially organized by Wanda’s husband, David.

The league meets at 10 a.m. each Tuesday until Aug. 12, except for July 1 and 15, when the league will meet at 3 p.m.

Hester said the idea came about as the community looked for a summer activity.

“It’s too hot to be outside right now, so we wanted to do something inside and bowling seemed to be the thing,” she said.

So far, it has drawn 25 participants, which are divided into eight teams. The league has the ability to grow if more players want to join. If players miss a day, they can come back later in the week and bowl their games, which will be added to the team scores.

Accomodations are made to help the children bowl. Bumpers are used to keep balls out of the gutters, ramps are set up to help those with wheelchairs and walkers get onto the floor and some of the bowlers utilize a special ramp that helps roll the ball towards the pins.

Similar to the baseball program, volunteers help players however they need to, allowing parents to relax a bit.

Hester said things are already set up when the bowlers get there, allowing them to immediately start play.

“We just show up, take a few practice turns and start bowling,” she said.

Though scores weren’t kept during baseball games, each bowler’s score is recorded weekly and posted alongside the rest of the bowling center’s results. It’s not meant to inspire competition, but simply to encourage improvement along the way.

“With bowling you’re trying to beat yourself,” Hester said. “You’re not competing with anybody else, you’re trying to be better than you were yesterday.”