Bowl 'N Bop event to be held at SIUC

Bowl 'N Bop event to be held at SIUC

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Get ready to Bowl 'N Bop this Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the SIU Student Center.

Each year about 500 people with intellectual disabilities meet for a day of bowling, dancing and fun at the annual Bowl N' Bop event.

Volunteers say it's a day of fun for everyone.

"I like to make people smile and it really is a great time," volunteer Zachariah Cohen said. "I like to get out there and dance with them on the dance floor. They'll outdance me. I'll get tired after about three or four songs.  Some of them will be out there for about ten songs in a row. I don't know where they get the stamina for that cause I get worn out. But they get worn out, but just being around the individuals just puts a smile on their face."

According to organizers of the Bowl N’ Bop, the event began over 20 years ago, when 50 people were invited to bowl together. 

Frank Bleyer, owner of Bank of Carbondale, recruited a group of teachers to organize the event as a recreational activity for his son with a disability. Bleyer also financed the event. 

When the teachers retired and were no longer able to organize the event, organizers say a group of residential and day training providers who work with individuals with intellectual disabilities stepped in.

Financial support from local businesses allow individuals to attend at minimal cost. 

“While many services exist for people with intellectual disabilities, there are very few chances for individuals to connect socially with others who share the same experience,” director of Our Directions Day Training Center, Verna Webb said.

“While our community is very welcoming for those with disabilities, they are usually a small portion of the events they attend. This is an opportunity for them to be surrounding by people who are just like them. Spending the day bowling and dancing may not seem important, but for most of those in attendance this will be the highlight of their year.”  

The event relies heavily on volunteers, both from SIU and the community. Volunteers range from fraternity members to healthcare professionals.

Director of the event, Lindsey Radcliffe says the amount of volunteers helping out with Bowl-N-Bop is overwhelming.

"We have about 150 volunteers from southeast Missouri and southern Illinois that are coming to help with this event. They're taking their day off, they're taking a vacation day from their jobs or they're coming in between classes if they're students and really enhancing this event and we really couldn't do it without them," Radcliffe said. "We have one fraternity that comes that's instrumental in pulling this off. We have everyone from behavior analysts, to psychiatrists and doctors that take their day off and come and make sure that all the individuals at the event know that they're important, they're unique and only they can and they can be that person that they're designed to be."

Businesses and individual sponsorships from throughout the community have partnered to provide financial support for the event, including U.S. Representatives John Shimkus and Mike Bost. 

Committee member, Terri Steele says this event brings people of all abilities to come together and have a great time.

"We focus on their abilities, not their disabilities," Steele said. "We work really hard let them be independent and learn those skills and this is a place that they also get to come and  see some of their friends that they may have known from school or another location. That's why it feels like a reunion."

 For more information about Bowl 'n Bop, click here. 

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