Steamboat Springs Krysdal Weiland bowled one strike, then another. She beamed with pride as her teammates slapped her on the back and congratulated her. And when Snow Bowl General Manager Tony Carlson took a glance at the scoreboard, his face lit up, too.
“You go, girl,” he said with an enthusiastic high-five.
Weiland, one of about 10 bowlers in the Wednesday night city league, was born with a developmental disability.
But she’s treated just like everyone else when she walks through the door of Snow Bowl every Wednesday for a friendly evening of bowling, eating, jokes and laughter.
“It’s great bowling with these guys,” said Cheryl Schuster, who’s been bowling in the league for about four years. “I can’t imagine not. You can be having the worst day ever, and you look into some of their eyes, and it brightens your day.”
Through Horizons Specialized Services, a local nonprofit that provides support for people with developmental disabilities, clients are offered programs that allow them to integrate into typical community activities.
Every year in March, Horizons celebrates Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, hoping to educate residents about the clients and their roles in the community.
The Wednesday night bowling league shows, in a microcosm, how integration benefits not only the clients but also the community members who welcome them into the fold.
“We’re just like everyone else,” said Paula Lotz, a counselor with Horizons who bowls in the Wednesday night league. “It’s totally immersion into the community. Here, they develop friendships beyond our community of Horizons.
“It’s the way it should be in any activity.”
Horizons client Rhi Gifford said the bowling league is one of the highlights of her week.
“It’s fun being around friends,” she said.
Most of the Horizons clients are independent when it comes to the bowling league.
They take the bus to the bowling alley, they use their paychecks from work to buy food and drinks, and they pay their own league fees.
“They’re really integrated in this league, and everyone accepts them,” Tony Carlson said. “Nobody gives them any special treatment.”
Carlson spends a lot of Wednesday evening roaming around the lanes and poking fun at his Horizons friends. He likes to call Horizons client Jamie Kaminski “Minnie Mouse” and even changed her name on the scoring computer from Jamie to Minnie.
There are many more Wednesday night traditions besides the friendly teasing: Many of the clients wear wacky pajama pants, and client Kelly Chambers is expected to pull off one of his many celebration dances every time he rolls a strike.
“I like all the clients,” Carlson said. “They’re all great. They all have their own special way of making everyone’s day better.”
Horizons always is looking for more ways to offer clients programs that integrate them with the rest of the community in order to help them feel comfortable and like they belong.
For the past few weeks, Horizons teamed up with the Routt County Council on Aging to offer a Zumba dance workout classes for beginners, seniors and Horizons clients.
Zumba teacher Jodi Glaisher also is an occupational therapist for Horizons’ early intervention program, where she works with children from birth to age 3. But at the Friday morning Zumba class, she sees the impact Horizons’ integration programs has on the adult clients, who giggled and cheered their way through the hourlong class.
“It doesn’t matter how you move, just that you move,” Glaisher said.
Horizons client Jaimee Sexton said she loves to spend time with people outside the Horizons family through Zumba because everyone treats her and her fellow clients well.
“They’re nice, they’re sweet and they’re fun, and they care about Horizons,” Sexton said. “They talk to us and make us happy.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com