Mann Park Lawn Bowling Club was a hive of high-fives, praise and smiles Friday as teams of Semiahmoo Secondary students took to the green for a tournament and barbecue.
The afternoon was the culmination of the teens’ ‘Get the Ball Rolling’ project – an initiative of Semi’s leadership students that connected them with their peers from the school’s BASES program, through the sports of bocce and lawn bowling.
The BASES program is for students with special needs, with challenges ranging from autism and Down syndrome to visual impairment.
Department head Ryan Deutsch said more than 35 Grade 8 to 12 students enrolled this school year, and the opportunity to work with the leadership team was a welcome one, creating connections the teens may otherwise not have experienced.
“Friendship, somebody that they recognize in the hallways – just feeling like they belong in the school,” Deutsch said.
He described the results as “awesome.” Judging by the scene Friday, the students felt the same.
“Excuse me – I’m happy,” said one teen, giving a smile and a thumbs-up when asked if he was having a good day.
Jake Webster beamed at the success of his bowl, sharing an enthusiastic high-five with leadership student Ashleigh Jones after an intense moment of watching its progress on the rink.
PE department head and leadership co-ordinator Lori Pajic said the wrap-up event was funded by a $500 Motivate Canada grant, which was awarded to the leadership team for the youth-driven initiative.
Pajic said the teens chose to focus on their peers in the BASES program, and planned an initiative that would encourage participation. Prior to Friday’s tournament, they spent time together learning how to play both sports.
The teens took a lot away from the experience, Pajic said.
“I think a lot of them learned a lot from it,” she said. “The whole point of it is to try and encourage it to go forward.”
The camaraderie amongst the students Friday left a strong impression with club officials.
“I am incredibly fascinated by the generosity of the leadership students,” club president Bryant Avery said. “Some of these other students are unable to do much at all (and) the leadership students are coming up and giving ’em high fives, (saying) ‘great bowl’. It’s very heartening. It’s one of the reasons why we do it.”
Avery described the club’s involvement as a way to give back, and an opportunity to change the stereotype that lawn bowling is a sport just for the older generation.
“Here in this area, bowling has the reputation of being an old-folks’ game. Elsewhere, that’s not the case,” Avery said, noting one of the region’s best players is in his 20s.