The next time you go bowling, take a minute to be thankful. Yes, thankful.
You can walk into the bowling center, put on your shoes, put your bowling ball on the rack, walk up to the snack bar, take your turn on the lanes without assistance and simply enjoy yourself without even thinking that what you're doing is anything other than ordinary.
When you turn on the news at night or glance at the newspaper headlines it's easy to get depressed.
Well, all the news ain't bad, Jack.
Extraordinary examples of courage and tenacity still surround us. A lot of young people are willing to take their time to nurture and develop skills in others. They have the discipline and the heart to help those who need a little help.
If you had been at the Severna Park Lanes on Sunday you would have seen enough courage and compassion and had enough fun to last a lifetime.
Severna Park Lanes was filled to overflowing with Special Olympians, huggers, scorekeepers and volunteers from everywhere in Anne Arundel County.
Every year the Severna Park Jaycees play host to the Special Olympics bowling event, and every year there's a little larger crowd.
Joe Hanna, chairman of the event, was there with his wife, Jean, and I believe that they were wearing roller skates. They were everywhere, overseeing everything, helping out with everything. The Hannas live in Severna Park, and Joe's a superintendent for the W. D. Curran Co., mechanical and general contractors.
"We had 137 bowlers register for the Olympics," said Hanna. "And I know that we have over a hundred volunteers. All the bowlers will receive a participant ribbon, and medals will be awarded to the winners in eight categories. The winners will then go on to compete in the state and nation events."
The volunteers? They were people like Randy DeKroney, a retired Coast Guard officer from Arnold, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., 52 years ago. He said, "It was a pleasure to work with the Jaycees on this project."
There was Jayne Del Rosario, 20, of Millersville, a student at Anne Arundel Community College, with a smile that could light up a room. She said, "I belong to the Anne Arundel Community College Service Club, which was formed to provide volunteer community service. We believe it's time to give something back to the community, to make a difference."
It's a good thing that Sunday isn't a school day, because it seemed as if the entire St. Mary's High School student body was at Severna Park Lanes.
Josh Grannell, 16, said, "I enjoyed watching the kids smile and be happy. I wouldn't mind volunteering more often."
Jessica Hyles, 16, said, "I found it very exciting, very inspiring to watch these wonderful, full-of-life people bowl. They were friendly, loving people, and I adored working with them."
Matthew Wagenhofer, 17, said, "The Special Olympics was a great experience. The kids really got into the spirit of the game and the competition. It was really great to see how happy they got when they knocked the pins down. It's good to give these handicapped kids a feeling of accomplishment."
Ed Sealover, 17, said, "I'm surprised that working with those less fortunate than myself could make me feel so good. I have gained new respect for the mentally retarded. I didn't imagine that I'd really be cheering and rooting so hard for these children, but they really touched my heart."
Kathleen Fischer, 16, said, "I enjoyed helping out. It was a great experience."
Erin McDonough, 16, said, "I had fun. I felt really good when they scored."
Brian Mulholland, 17, said, "It was fun to help some of them. They're very good people."
Are you beginning to get the point? The volunteers had fun. I don't have to tell you that the bowlers had more fun than anybody. But the important thing is that the volunteers had fun, too. Some, like Sandy Loftus, also a student at St. Mary's High School, didn't even want to be interviewed. They just wanted to help.
Maybe Chris Pantaleo, 17, also from St. Mary's High, said it best: "The Special Olympics has had a positive influence on myself. Working with the participants has broken down stereotypes and made me more aware of the dignity of all human life."
Leanne Knapp, 11, a Special Olympian, said, "I enjoyed watching the pins fall and all the cheering."
The Thanksgiving Tournament presented by the National Amateur Bowlers Inc. on Nov. 22, 23, 24 and 25 will guarantee a first-place prize of $2,000 and a second-place prize of $1,000.
That tournament will be conducted at the Crofton Bowling Centre and will be open to anyone with an average under 200 who wishes to join the club.
The top 10 finishers will receive a paid entry to the NABI Nationals in Las Vegas.
Remember, you can walk in and sign up for the tournament on the day it takes place.