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The Strikers bowling team practices for an upcoming tournament at Pin City Bowling Alley, Aug 2. The team, made up of approximately 20 Special Olympians, is preparing for the Georgia Masters Bowling Special Olympics, which will be held Aug. 24-26 in Warner Robins, Ga.

Photo by Nathan L. Hanks, Jr.

Smiles to Spare: Special Olympics bowlers take fast lane

2 Aug 2012 | Nathan L. Hanks, Jr.

He is a Special Olympics athlete and a two-time silver medalist at the Georgia Masters Bowling Special Olympics.

Travis Grier, 24, is a member of the Strikers bowling team made up of approximately 20 Special Olympians.

His hopes of winning first place in the state competition this year nearly ended up in the gutter when the facility his team was using decided to close its doors.

The Strikers were preparing for the Georgia Masters Bowling Special Olympics, which will be held Aug. 24-26 in Warner Robins, Ga.

“When Albany Bowl-A-Rama closed its doors, we needed another facility where we could practice and someone mentioned asking Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany if we could use its bowling alley,” said Marie Stamps, Strikers head coach.

A bowler’s parent contacted base officials and within a few days, Pin City Bowling Alley opened its lanes to the Special Olympians.

 “Marine Corps Community Services jumped at the chance to partner with this organization within our community and it doesn’t hurt to show off our facility at the same time,” said Dick French, MCCS director, MCLB Albany.

This was the Strikers third time as a league to practice in the bowling alley.

“Everybody loves to come to the Pin City Bowling Alley,” said Stamps, who has been a part of Special Olympics since 1982. “The bowling alley is the exact size we need for our league. Bowling close to each other helps build camaraderie and teamwork among the Special Olympians.”

The support from the base has been super, according to Stamps.

“We would not have been as prepared for the state games if it were not for MCLB Albany, who graciously opened its doors to us,” she said. “For that I am very thankful. This is a big treat for all of the Special Olympians.”

During the Aug. 3 practice, Grier bowled three games, scoring 131, 136 and 138, earning 404 points with an average of 135 points per game.

Grier focused on his delivery during each frame with hopes of landing a strike, and made several. A roar of excitement could be heard in the bowling alley as Striker teammates erupted in cheers when Grier wiped out all 10 pins with one strike.  Each bowler gave him a high-five as he took his seat and waited for his next turn. He also credits his high score and strikes to “Wildfire.”

“I call my bowling ball Wildfire because when I throw it down the lane, it is fast like a wildfire,” Grier said, smiling.

This will be Grier’s third time competing in the state Special Olympic games.

For many of the Strikers, this was the first time practicing aboard the base.

Looking forward to her first trip to the state games is Striker teammate Shemika Broner, 22, who has been bowling in the Masters for three years. Broner called the atmosphere of Pin City Bowling Alley “cheerful.”

“I like bowling here and I want to come back to the bowling alley,” she said. “I enjoy talking and interacting with the Marines in uniform.”

Although bowling is not her favorite sport, Broner likes the competition.

She bowled three games, scoring 78, 73 and 43, earning 99 points, averaging 66.3 points a game. Broner attributes her success to “Black Beauty.”

“I named my bowling ball Black Beauty because all you are going to see is a black streak when I send her down the middle of the lane,” she said.

Capt. Justin Cooper, Headquarters Company commanding officer, MCLB Albany, was on hand to cheer on the Special Olympians.

“I enjoyed watching the Special Olympians bowl, he said. “I am here to provide moral support plus this is another great way MCLB Albany can give back to the community.”

Cooper said he hopes more volunteers will come out to support the bowlers.

Stamps, a recreation assistant with Albany Parks and Recreation, started a Special Olympics Georgia Masters Program in 2008 with four Special Olympians. Today, there are approximately 30 Special Olympians in the Masters Program.

Special Olympics Georgia provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, according to the website The goal is to help bring persons with intellectual disabilities into the larger society under conditions whereby they are accepted, respected and given the chance to become useful and productive citizens.

“Special Olympics Georgia invests in people with intellectual disabilities, helping them to develop athletic skills, while also promoting the abilities of the athletes off the field,” Stamps said. “Through the program, athletes gain skills for employment, learn independent living skills, form relationships and help others understand their extraordinary capabilities despite health issues they experience daily.”

The Strikers are scheduled to practice tonight from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany