Beginning in October, the athletes of Marshfield Special Olympics will be able to start their fall bowling season with extra social distancing and peace of mind thanks to the generosity of Rose Bowl Lanes in Marshfield.
After learning that bowling would be allowed this fall through Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Return to Play Plan, Rose Bowl Lanes’ owner Todd Leonhardt quickly jumped into action to make sure the athletes of Marshfield Special Olympics could enjoy one of their favorite past times in the safest environment possible. The longtime supporter of the local Special Olympics bowling community offered to close to the public on Sunday evenings and reserve the whole facility for Marshfield Special Olympics.
“Doing this was a big deal to me and it’s maybe one of the best things this company has done.” – Rose Bowl Lanes owner, Todd Leonhardt
“If I can do something to help the athletes do something they love after what they’ve gone through these last six months, I’m going to jump at the chance,” said Todd Leonhardt. “Doing this was a big deal to me and it’s maybe one of the best things this company has done.”
This act of kindness and generosity is certainly a big deal to the athletes as well. When Marshfield coach Janet Bell started calling around to the bowlers to see who would be interested, it didn’t take long to recognize the enthusiasm. “I would just call them and ask if they want to bowl,” Bell said. “’Yes! Yes! Yes!’ they would say. The majority of them are very happy to be doing this.”
Marshfield typically has 40-45 bowlers in a season and this year they’ll only have a slight drop-off with around 35 who have agreed to participate.
While preventing the spread of COVID-19 is the number one priority for Marshfield Special Olympics, they recognized the importance of getting their athletes back in action.
Even the few weeks they’ve participated in bocce, cornhole and punt, pass and kick through Phase 1 of the Return to Play Plan have made a big impact on the athletes.
“A lot of our athletes don’t have large families or support systems supporting them so Special Olympics means so much to them.” Marshfield Special Olympics coach Janet Bell
“The athletes are so happy to be back together,” Bell said. “One athlete had regressed during quarantine and stopped talking. Just in the last couple weeks they started to talk and participate again.”
It’s stories like these that drove our decision to roll out our Return to Play Plan. We spent several months conducting extensive research and planning to find a solution that would balance the safety of our athletes and communities with the social, emotional and physical well-being of its athletes.
“A lot of our athletes don’t have large families or support systems supporting them so Special Olympics means so much to them,” Bell said.
A couple athletes even confided to Bell that they suffered from depression during the pandemic.
Thankfully, members of the community like Leonhardt have stepped up to help ensure our athletes have a safe and positive support system to help them get through these tough times.
In addition to closing to the public every Sunday evening at 5pm through December 6, Rose Bowl Lanes staff will thoroughly clean the facility before athletes enter, require facemasks, keep capacity to two athletes per lane, and limit the number of caregivers in attendance. Coaches will screen athletes before entering the facility and have ample cleaning supplies on hand throughout the evening.
It will be a lot of work and Leonhardt has had to sacrifice Sunday evening business, but for him it was a no-brainer.
“If we can give them 8-10 weeks to do something fun, I’m happy,” Leonhardt said.