Connecting with Community
Every two weeks, Ryan and Crystal spend their Sunday evenings bowling. They’ve been doing this for years and they’re improving their skills with every game: Crystal recently averaged 105 in an evening and Ryan averaged 122 on the same night. While improving their scores is always a goal, that’s not the only reason they are so committed to this sport, which they discovered through Special Olympics. It’s just one way that Ryan and Crystal stay active in their community. For them, being active and connecting with people is what it’s all about.
We meet new people every year. It’s a great way to make new friends. – Ryan, Special Olympics bowler
Crystal agrees, adding that it’s also great for their overall health.
“We do lots of leg and arm stretches before we begin bowling,” she says. “It’s important to warm up. Bowling is fun and helps us stay healthy.”
Ryan and Crystal live independently in community, sharing an apartment in Abbotsford. They both participate in the Community Living Program (CLP) at Communitas Supportive Care Society. Through CLP, they receive support with personal and domestic skills and have opportunities to participate in activities that allow them to improve their social skills.
Krista Petrie and Sheral Jones are service workers with Communitas. They assist Ryan and Crystal in various ways: Krista and Ryan shop together and plan and prepare meals. Sheral assists Crystal by helping with household chores and budgeting tasks. Both Sheral and Krista affirm Ryan and Crystal’s active social life and community involvement.
“Ryan participates in the CLP men’s group and always comes to our weekly drop-in where he likes to “spin” music for the group, calling himself ‘DJ Ryan’,” Krista says. “He also works at Sevenoaks Shopping Centre in janitorial services.”
Crystal also works at Sevenoaks, participates in a CLP women’s group, and in the weekly drop-in. Sheral also works with Crystal to improve her physical and mental health. She notes that Crystal’s involvement with Special Olympics has been very positive for her.
“I think it gives the people a sense of community and pride,” she says. “It is a great way to stay connected in the community and keep active and healthy as well.”
Ryan first heard about Special Olympics from his friend Mike Pallitti, a multi-sport, medal-winning Special Olympian who encouraged Ryan to sign up, which he did, choosing bowling as a way to take part. Crystal’s mom signed her up with Special Olympics and she tried a variety of sports before deciding to concentrate on bowling. Bi-weekly practices keep them busy but they love it. They haven’t participated in any of the national or international competitions yet. For now, they’re concentrating on improving their skills.
“I like the challenge,” Crystal says. “At first, I used to get a lot of gutter balls but now I’m doing way better.”
Ryan also notes improvements in his own abilities, having recently scored a double.
“That was pretty exciting,” he says.
Several of their friends from CLP also take part in Special Olympics and it’s the friendships they make that keep them coming back. They’d love to see more of their friends join them.
“You’ll meet lots of really great people and it’s really fun.”