ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — At Don Carter Lanes in Rockford, Thursday night’s are a particularly fun night. At least that is according to the Bowling Alley’s Director of Fun, Jori Peterson.
Peterson created the Therapeutic Therapy league for individuals with special needs to come together and enjoy each other while bowling.
“We try things, I wanted to go ahead and try this,” Peterson said.
The league runs for 8 weeks over the summer, and is most importantly inclusive to all who want to participate.
“When I was talking to [one of the bowler’s] grandmothers, her grandma said that she would invite people to her birthday party and nobody would come,” said Peterson. “It was the same thing at the playground. So when they walked in, it was just, ‘wow.'”
Brad Sommer is the general manager of Don Carter Lanes, an establishment his family has owned for decades.
“Every time you’re able to come up with a program like this and you’re able to impact the lives of athletes like we have here, it definitely tugs at your heart strings,” said Sommer. “It makes you want to do it even more, and double your efforts the next time you do it.”
Stateline local Stacey Weigel is a parent of one of the bowlers. Her 13-year old son, Dylan, is autistic.
“This is something that is right up his alley, literally, just because of the fact that everybody is a lot like him,” Weigel said.
As much as it means to the families, it means just as much to the league’s founder.
“My favorite part is all the smiles,” Peterson said while fighting back tears. “[It means a lot to me], it really does. “I mean if you just look at all of our athletes. Just look at the smiles on their faces. Even if they miss. It doesn’t matter because everyone is going ahead and saying, ‘good job. Fantastic. Good try.'”
Over the years, Don Carter Lanes has hosted numerous events giving back to the community. But Sommer said this is just the opposite.
“We’re not giving back, these athletes are giving back to us,” said Sommer. “Being able to have the honor to work with these young adults and kids, it just makes us that much more appreciative of the community that we have here and we’re just glad to be a part of it.”
With it’s rapid success, a 16-week fall league has been added to the calendar. And with that, Peterson has just one mission to accomplish.
“I want to fill up the house,” exclaimed Peterson. “I want to fill up the house. I want [lanes] one through 42 filled.”
The league meets on Thursdays for the remainder of the summer and will move to Mondays when it restarts back up in the fall. If you or someone you know is interested in getting involved contact Don Carter Lanes and ask for Jori Peterson at (815) 399-0314.