High school students and adults came together Saturday to compete in the Special Olympics New York’s largest bowling tournament ever hosted.
Bowl Long Island at Patchogue donated the space for the event, which was at full capacity.
Over 140 people showed up to bowl while cheering on their children and friends as they bowled against each other. Last year’s event attracted about 80 people.
The Special Olympics were founded in 1968 to “creating a new world of inclusion and community, where every single person is accepted and welcomed regardless of ability or disability.”
A year later, the program was inaugurated in New York.
Lindsey Coyle, director of programs for the Long Island division, said the organization offers 24 different styles of sports for adults and children with disabilities.
“Bowling is one of our most popular sports,” she said. “The participants are able to compete against one another with similar abilities — so that sets everyone up for a chance to succeed.”
“The idea is that the players should feel they have the same abilities, too,” Coyle said,
Participants varied in ages Saturday, starting as young as 8 to the oldest bowler being in his mid-60s.
Some teams practiced one-to-two times a week to prepare for the big day.
One standout team hailed from Southampton School District, which featured its first Unified Bowling Team — a group of four teams who wear the same uniforms, blending mainstream participants and those with special needs together.
“Our high school has really embodied acceptance,” said the Southampton team coach, Brian Tenety. “The kids have been practicing since October, and from there we established the four teams that were equally matched so they can compete here today.”
Though teams came out from across the island, from Nassau County to the East End, dozens of volunteers also showed up in support.
Among them were volunteers from the Southampton and Springs school districts, and “Girls That Give Back,” which is a group of 13-year-old students from Deer Park who help out at different events.
Dana and Rob Eggert, owners of Bowl Long Island, opened their doors for the Special Olympics tournament for the fifth year in a row.
“We’re so grateful that the owners of Bowl Long Island shared their space again for us,” said Whitney Reidlinger, a Springs School District volunteer and coordinator.
More photos by Julianne Mosher below.