MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – David Ross, founder of the King Pins, and Special Olympics bowlers meet for their Monday ritual. The league was founded 21 years ago for Ross’ daughter, Julie, who is mentally challenged.
“The great thing about bowling,” Ross said. “No matter what your challenge, whether it’s a physical or mental challenge, any of these athletes can bowl.”
Ross said when he and his late wife started the league in 1999, it was for their daughter, Julie. She contracted an illness as an infant, which left her mentally challenged. However, she continues to compete in Special Olympics sports even at 40 years old.
“She started Special Olympics when she was just eight years old,” Ross said. “We’ve been involved with Special Olympics for the past 32 years.”
Ross said when they started, they only had about six players. Now, they have more than 100 families participate in the league throughout the season.
“They have enjoyed bowling,” Ross said. “The fact that we gave them an opportunity to participate in Special Olympics, I know it means so much to the athletes and their families.”
Bowlers of all ages and abilities come very week to bowl and spend time with friends. Ross said a few of the bowlers have been coming since the beginning.
“I’m so happy that these athletes get together, socialize, and participate in an activity,” Ross said. “I love it!”
However, Ross said one of the most challenging aspects of this is when they lose players from their health issues. He said the players are so much his family that he even proposed to his current wife at the bowling alley to share that special moment with them.
“Through the years we become very close with these athletes,” Ross said. “Unfortunately, with the nature of some of their illnesses, they have passed away. That’s really tough because you feel like they are directly a part of your family.”
No matter what life throws at them, every Monday, the members of the King Pins know they have family and friends waiting to cheer them on at the bowling alley.
“Every week when I come here, I can stand at the end of the bowling alley and I can see all these athletes having the best time,” Ross said.