Danny Scherer and Dani Lunsky both love coming to Reena’s weekly bowling event for adults with developmental disabilities, but for very different reasons.
Lunsky comes because she genuinely enjoys bowling.
Scherer? He admits he finds it boring. But he has a more meaningful motivation.
“I just come because my fiancée loves it so much,” he says with a grin, referring to Lunsky.
The two are not sure exactly when they’re getting hitched but in Scherer’s words, “Who knows and who cares?”
The couple is a good example of how Reena’s weekly event appeals to different participants for different reasons. Some come to make friends and build relationships, others to spend time with their families and many just to have fun.
“It’s something to do instead of watching TV all day, which is boring,” said bowler and Blue Jays fan David Gosling.
Reena, a not-for-profit social agency focused on equipping adults who have developmental disabilities with the skills needed to integrate into mainstream society, has been holding the event for about 17 years.
Reena’s outreach and respite programs supervisor, Lisa Cohen, said the weekly event helps teach leadership, tolerance and sportsmanship.
“I don’t think this program is just about the sport,” Cohen said. “It’s really about the bonding, the teambuilding and the sense of independence.”
Each bowling lane has a captain responsible for keeping scores, and bowlers can qualify for the Special Olympics if they do well enough. Several of the participants, including Miriam Miller, Hyla Rubenstein and Gosling, are past Special Olympic medal winners.
“Every time I go to tournaments I always get a medal most of the time,” notes Miller, who recently returned with Gosling from the 2012 Provincial Spring Games in Kingston.
Rubenstein previously qualified for the World Games in Greece, but didn’t go, due to political sensitivities and family issues.
This is her second week keeping score for the team.
“I don’t like letting my team down, because I’m the captain,” she says proudly.
Giving something to be proud of to people who have felt undervalued for much of their lives is part of what Reena strives to do, said Reena Foundation president Gary Sim.
“When you can see them start to grow more comfortable because they’re no longer afraid, and start expressing themselves … for a family member, it’s miraculous,” he said.
Reena also helps families cope with the challenge of raising a child with developmental disabilities.
Jack Rosen comes from Bathurst Street and Steeles Avenue to the Bowlerama at Yonge Street and Glencairn Avenue on Wheel-Trans every week to watch his son Joe bowl.
“In five years he’s never missed a week,” he said, referring to his son. “You can see how much he likes it.”
For Karin Rose, whose daughter Fern has a severe disability that requires her to be supervised at all times, the event provides the opportunity to develop important skills while having a great time.
“She’s among young adults her age who have more strengths, so they can show leadership and she’s able to have friendships she wouldn’t have at home,” she said.
Besides, Rose notes bowling is good exercise.
“Where else could you get them pick up a ball that’s between 6 and 13 pounds repeatedly?”