York County Special Olympians earn cheers while bowling

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 28, 2013 

  • Want to help?

    What: A cold swim in Lake Wylie through the “Polar Plunge” fundraiser for Area Eleven Special Olympics, which serves children and adults in York, Chester and Lancaster counties.

    When: Feb. 23; registration begins at 11 a.m.

    Where: Ebenezer Park, 4490 Boatshore Road, Rock Hill

    Cost: A minimum of $50 to “plunge” and receive a T-shirt

    Information: frozenfanspolarplungesc.org or 803-327-9320

— On Monday in Rock Hill, bowlers could have missed all 10 pins and still heard a cheer or gotten a high-five.

In lane 29 at Strikers Bowling Alley, 12-year-old Ricky Adkison – bursting with energy and “Star Wars” trivia – struck a victory pose after nearly every delivery.

Ricky’s mom, Renate Adkison, proudly watched her son heave a green bowling ball down the lane all morning.

Every time Ricky flung the ball toward the pins, hitting the gutter bumpers along the way, Mom clapped and offered praise.

When it wasn’t Ricky’s turn, she cheered the other kids on at the Area 11 Special Olympics Bowling Tournament.

So did Nancy Johnsen, mom to Fort Mill Middle School eighth-grader Corey Johnsen.

Corey has participated in special needs athletics leagues since he was about 6. Victory Sports in Fort Mill and Special Olympics in Rock Hill give Corey the opportunity to bowl and play basketball and kickball.

“It’s a good social thing for him,” Nancy Johnsen said. “It’s a time for him to just hang out with his buddies.”

During the Special Olympics bowling tournament – games that were founded to give children with intellectual disabilities a chance to compete – every kid had somebody cheering for him during every frame on Monday.

Ricky, an Orchard Park Elementary School fifth-grader with autism, said he wasn’t worried about winning – but he’d like to get at least one strike.

“I’m still working on it,” he said, waiting for his turn as nearly 200 other special needs children sent bowling balls barreling down Strikers’ 40 lanes.

Some children had a bowling buddy to help them, all had someone to support them.

Shirley Elkins has been supporting her son and countless other children bowling in Rock Hill’s Special Olympics for nearly three decades.

Her 34-year-old son, Jason Elkins, has Down syndrome. He’s been bowling since he was 8.

In his best game, Jason scored 186. A perfect score is 300.

At Strikers on Monday, nearly every volunteer knew Jason’s name.

When Jason’s not participating in Special Olympics games, he volunteers with the organization. The Elkins family steps in to help whenever they’re needed, said local Special Olympics coordinator Kathy Covington.

The Elkinses are one family in a team of “awesome volunteers,” she said.

Covington has volunteered with the Special Olympics since high school. She recently retired from Rock Hill’s parks, recreation and tourism department, which helps host local Special Olympics events.

“I want to make sure that everybody has the chance to do the things they can do – to shine and see what they can accomplish,” she said.

Children were given ribbons for their achievements on Monday, but all Covington really wants is for participants like Ricky, Corey and Jason to leave with “a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

“The whole focus is not winning,” she said. “But then, Special Olympics athletes are just like everyone else.

“We do want to win.”

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Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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