A fun bowling event kicked off fundraising for Special Olympics Bow Valley on Nov. 26, and it continues with an online auction that begins on Nov. 29.

The Bow Valley Bedrock Bowlers and community supporters hit the alleys of Cochrane Lanes on Nov. 26 to bow a pair of novelty games. Bingo was followed by Goofy Bowling, which had them in all sorts of contortions while trying to knock down the pins.

There was also a silent auction and jelly bean raffle. Nonperishables were collected for the local food bank.

Shawn Jesse, community coordinator for the Special Olympics Bow Valley and head coach for Team Alberta's cross-country ski team, says this is their first opportunity to fundraiser since the pandemic.

"COVID got in the way of some of our fundraising and the auctions we're having and this bowling day are big, because we want to send our bowlers off to tournaments of Special Olympics Alberta across the province, and we're working towards hopefully sending our athletes bowling at nationals at some point."

They already have four of the five cross-country skiers who will represent Alberta in the nationals being hosted by Calgary from Feb. 27 to Mar. 3.

Elouise Stewart, Brock Jesse, Kieran Pothier, of Cochrane, and Shane Stewart, of Canmore, will be representing Alberta along with Sarah McCarthy, of Calgary.

"We're in training mode and everyone is just hoping for more snow so we can get better training," says Jesse.

There are 32 items in the online auction that begins on Nov. 29 and concludes on Dec. 3. To view the items and place your bids click here.

Lynda Jesse says there's over $9,600 worth of items up for grabs and they hope to raise at least $5,000 to help support their programming. 

Special Olympics is committed to enriching the lives of individuals with intellectual disability through sport. The Bow Valley community program began in 2018 and has two thriving programs in cross-country skiing and five-pin bowling. They are interested in adding more and welcome volunteers to help establish them.

"Our hope is to expand our programming to offer as many of the 18 sports offered by Special Olympics Alberta as we can accommodate."

The organization is largely self-funded and funds raised through the current campaign will allow them to continue to waive all registration fees to join their program so everyone can join, regardless of their financial position.

They also use the proceeds to provide their athletes/volunteers with uniforms; fund special events and athlete/volunteer recognition ceremonies; cover operational costs; and provide volunteer/coach training opportunities. Their hope is to be able to provide transportation to out-of-town bowling tournaments so families without access to a vehicle can also participate.

Dwayne LaMontagne, of Cochrane Lanes, is the head coach of the Bow Valley Bedrock Bowlers and is assisted by his wife, daughter, and a league bowler. It was created by Lynda Jesse, who continues to coordinate it.

He says they now have about 12 regular participants in the bowling program.

"We had some tough times over COVID and had to start and stop," says LaMontagne. "The last couple of years has just been a tremendous time, working with the athletes and just having a lot of fun."

He says it's the first time they've run this fundraising and hope to make it an even larger event next year.

"We were looking at doing two shifts and did one. Next year we're hoping to get more participants from around the community, get maybe a couple of shifts. It would really be a nice fundraiser for the athletes to go to tournaments and get uniforms and all kinds of stuff."

KeiranCochrane's Kieran Pothier, Special Olympics Alberta's male athlete of the year, was among the participants.

Like others, Kieran Pothier was given a witty name for the event. He went by Lightning Gutterman that day, but in real life, he is the male athlete of the year for Special Olympics Alberta.

Bowling is one of his favorite sport and he's quite good at it, earning three gold medals. He will also be making his first appearance as a member of Team Alberta's cross-country ski team for the upcoming nationals.

Special Olympics Canada is the only organization in Canada to provide grassroots sport programs and competition opportunities, from the local level to the world level, for people with intellectual disabilities.

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