Eight bowlers represented Tuscarawas County Special Olympics at the National Unified Bowling Tournament held in Las Vegas, Nev., and the results were astounding. The bowlers were divided into two four-person teams (two unified partners paired with two Special Olympic athletes) for the first day of competition and both were awarded gold medal honors in their respective divisions. On the second day of competition, the eight bowlers were divided into four sets of doubles; each pair was comprised of one unified partner and one Special Olympic athlete. The double pairs of Adam Lefler and Chelsea Lefler, as well as Janel Travis and Shane York, both snagged gold for Tuscarawas County. The pairing of Coney DiGenova and Conner DiGenova won bronze while the team of Bob Glasgow and Travis Glasgow was awarded fifth in a packed division.
The bowlers selected to represent Tuscarawas County Special Olympics had won numerous gold medals at local and state bowling competitions over the past two years. They spent five days in Las Vegas, Nev., with two of those spent competing with bowlers from all over the United States including Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, and Nebraska. Over the course of the other three days, the bowlers were able to explore the Hoover Dam, the sights of Las Vegas, and traveling by air (some for the first time).
When asked about their experiences, Coney DiGenova shared that the trip was one of the most amazing experiences of his life and that he did not want to leave. He added that bowling is something he is able to share with his son, Conner and that he just wants to do what he can for him. Shane York said, "Today is my lucky day. This [day will] always be in my heart," after winning his second gold. Travis Glasgow stated that he was proud of his efforts and thought he did well - to which his teammates and coaches agreed.
Many local organizations and fundraising efforts helped to make the trip possible. Sponsors included The Ruth Carlson-Starlight Foundation, the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, the New Philadelphia VFW Post #1445, and the Rainbow Connection. Wabash Lanes provided the practice facilities in the weeks leading up to the competition, with the bill for these practice sessions being paid for in memory of Jennifer Milburn. A Special Olympics Fall Fest, with help from the village of Newcomerstown and Mayor Pat Cadle, and t-shirt sales were also held earlier in the season to help offset the costs of the trip.
Local coordinator, Richelle Lefler, shared, "This trip was absolutely amazing. The synergy amongst the athletes and coaches was something I have only experienced a handful of times in my life. There is something so powerful about coming together for one common goal and doing everything within your ability to see it come to fruition. I am so proud of all of our bowlers, Coach Heather Menefee, and Coach Mary Jo Hamma. This was a wonderful experience all around, and I am so thankful to be part of an organization, community, and work environment that value our athletes and such opportunities. I would like to extend special thanks to all of those who donated time and money to make this trip possible. As I have stated numerous times before, community support is crucial for the success of Tuscarawas County Special Olympics."