By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The Tucker County Special Olympics Bowling team, coached by Joe and Becky Kencil, travelled to Charleston recently to compete in The State Bowling Tournament. To prepare for this event, the contestants gathered at the bowling alley in Elkins to practice. There were different divisions, which included modified ramp bowlers and traditional bowling, and contestants could compete as singles or doubles. Head of Delegates Stormie Meloy said, “Each event, the athletes, coaches, and volunteers look forward to going and competing, going to the victory dance, and sometimes going to the mall. They make new friends,” she said. “One of our athletes made a friend over the summer games and he bought her something for Christmas at the bowling games. They are lasting friendships.”
Eric Lawrence, commonly known as Big E, is one of the competitors and a student at Tucker County High School. He said, “I love Special Olympics. I am proud of all of my medals and what I can do. I am proud of my teammates and everything they do.” He continued, “My favorite event so far is basketball and I can’t wait to do it again this year. I like that my family and friends, Big U (Kelly Underwood), and Mr. Godwin get to go to practice and see me, and go to events when they are close and cheer for me and the other athletes. We have great coaches, too. I hope everyone in our county will cheer for our team, we try really hard.”
Tiffany Lawrence, mother to Big E, shared her feelings on the Special Olympics program. “The Special Olympics has opened a whole new world for our son that so many people with special needs do not get to experience. He is surrounded by great people and gets to travel with his team to events.” She continued, “This has made Eric more social and independent. He has made numerous friends and we are very thankful.” Lawrence added, “Our small community is very accepting and Eric knows he is loved here. Being a part of the Special Olympics has broadened that aspect of Eric’s life. He is also able to enjoy and participate in activities that he is not able to do at school because of his disability, which is very important to him.”
Rocky Freeman, team member and student at TVEMS, is also very proud to be a part of the team. He said, “I get to go to the events and have fun with my friends. I get to get medals like my brothers and everyone is proud of me!”
Rose Freeman, mother of Rocky, added to what Lawrence said about why it’s important for Rocky to be a part of the organization. “Special Olympics has helped Rocky in so many ways.
He’s learned how to be a part of a team and the fact that he gets to be around people who are just like him is amazing. He’s learned that he’s not the only person with autism.” She added, “He used to say ‘I can’t play sports because I’m slow’, but Special Olympics has given him the opportunity to shine and be proud of himself.”
At the end of the event, Tucker County’s team received several honors. In the singles event ages 16 and up division, first place gold went to Isaiah Meloy, second place silver to Dale Varner, Dave Varner received fifth and Don Nestor sixth. In the ages eight to 15 division, Eric Lawrence won first place gold and Rocky Freeman second place silver. Within the doubles competition, ages 16 and older, Isaiah Meloy and Dale Varner received third place bronze as well as Don Nestor and Dave Varner receiving the same honor but on different lanes. Eric Lawrence and Rocky Freeman received first place gold in the eight through 15 age division.
Meloy said none of this would be possible without the support of many local businesses, organizations, and individuals. Not only do they receive monetary donations, but van rentals, meals, and many other offers benefit this group. “We could not do it without everyone’s support.” She added, “We are getting ready for the upcoming winter games to be held at Canaan Valley and Whitegrass on January 24.” Basketball will follow in March, which is held in Morgantown. “Everyone is welcome to come and watch or lend a hand.”