By Kyla Hurt
It’s called Pin Pals, appropriately so. The participants in Pin Pals bowling have developmental disabilities. On the first Sunday of the month (October 2016 through May 2017), a group of kids and their parent(s) or guardian(s) can show up to the Bowl-Inn, located at 224 N. East in Jacksonville, from 4:30 to about 6 p.m. Marilyn Webster is not only part of heading up the league, but also very instrumental in organizing other social gatherings for special needs children. The Pin Pals bowling started in October 2015 for its first “season,” coinciding with the school year essentially.
“We’d like to get this out there. We’d like it to grow,” said Vicky Dover of the Bowl Inn. Dover has offered the group “two games of bowling for $4 – and, that’s shoes included. Parents will be accommodated with shoes to assist their children.”
This second year of Pin Pals has incorporated more than just the younger kids; adults with developmental disabilities who live in group homes in the area are invited, as well. The same $4 charge applies. Marilyn Webster and her husband have two children, one of whom has special needs. “I think families appreciate that they can come here and there’s no pressure … if your kid’s having a back day, there’s no judgment … we’re all here to support each other.”
Rebecca Peterson, one of the Pin Pals bowlers, was celebrating her 11th birthday this most recent Sunday of Pin Pals. Her father, Charles Peterson, thinks that the program is positive for Rebecca Peterson; this is their second year bowling. “It shows them what they can do. They can be with other kids,” says Charles Peterson. Rebecca Peterson is autistic and home-schooled, “so this is a big plus to get out of the house,” adds Mr. Peterson.
A common theme with the parents is the limited resources available to them locally. One parent of a Pin Pal youth praised Webster for her efforts, especially when there is little for their child otherwise, explaining that she has “given us a means where we can have sensory breaks.” The parent wished to remain anonymous, as this wasn’t about him. “The group helps kids, but parents are in a situation where they get help, too,” he added. This dad feels like it is a needed service – a service for developmentally disabled children that Pin Pals and other gatherings orchestrated by Webster provides. He credits the music classes, held at a local church (which are separately arranged by Webster), for engaging their son, diagnosed with classic autism, to liking stained glass he sees in the church – and recognizing the Hail Mary prayer.
The typical parent worries about their child(ren). Coupling the everyday trials found in raising a child with developmental disabilities adds obstacles in daily tasks. The Pin Pal bowling takes this into consideration. The music is turned much lower to accommodate for loud noise sensory, for example.
If you personally have a child with developmental disabilities, or if you know of a family that does, please share this information. The bowling is not for Jacksonville families only. Anyone is welcome that can benefit. Simply show up on the first Sunday at 4:30 p.m., or search on Facebook for “Pin pals, Special Needs Bowling League.” Webster manages the page. It is set to private as pictures of the kids are posted, but Webster says to simply request to join.