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Let it Roll bowls over Oxford

“Everyone is special in one way or another.”

That’s what Steve Dziduch and his daughter, Tina, told me this past week when I stopped by the Let it Roll bowling league’s practice. The group is made up of special-needs adults from North Mississippi Regional Center, Self Advocacy For Everyone and Communicare Connections, and helps provide social interaction and build self-confidence. Between 60 and 80 people participate in the league, which meets twice a month at Premier Lanes, and to me, it addresses a real need in our community.

The league started in 2015 during a SAFE meeting, when the program participants were asked what activities they were interested in during a self-advocacy exercise. They all said they wanted to go bowling, because some had never been, and the folks at SAFE made it happen. The group started out with four people (the “Core Four”) and now, every single lane is full.

According to Dziduch, to participate in the program one needs to either live with their parents or in a group home, and/or be part of a participating program. They always need volunteers, especially since it takes a fleet of vans and busses to transport everyone to and from the bowling alley.

Let it Roll isn’t about who scores the most points or who has the best technique. It’s all about having fun. Bumpers might be up, ramps might be in use, there might not be a single strike – but it doesn’t matter. They’re all smiling. As I watched the games, I thought about how something many of us take for granted can bring joy to people.

The participants aren’t the only ones who are having a good time – a team of volunteers from various organizations are also there, cheering them on and, every now and then, offering a helping hand.

What’s next on the agenda? The Winter Gala, which volunteers organized after learning that many program participants didn’t have the chance to attend prom or other formal events. They spoke up, and their request is coming true next month.

As the child of a special education teacher, I grew up seeing my mother work tirelessly to make sure her students were equipped with the knowledge and social skills to leave the classroom and enter the real world. Knowing there are programs like SAFE giving those who are developmentally or intellectually disabled the tools they need to exercise their rights as citizens by communicating for and representing themselves gives me hope. It’s a reminder that being disabled doesn’t equal being less of a person. We all have a voice, and we all deserve a chance to speak.

What should I try next, readers? Is there a new class to take, recipe to try or place to visit? If so, send me an email and I’ll be there.

Anna Gibbs is a reporter at the EAGLE. You can reach her at anna.gibbs@oxfordeagle.com