By Liz Pulver and Jim Lo
Standing at the front of lane two with a firm grip on the bowling ball, Michael Howe, an 8-year-old with autism, locks in and surveys his prospects of knocking down nine pins in front of him. Confident, he bends completely forward at the waist, swings the ball with both hands between his knees, and throws it about two feet in the air before it hits the hardwood and slowly rolls towards the target. A few seconds later, when the ball knocks down the right-corner pin, Howe jumps of joy.
Howe was one of the 300 bowlers who took part in the annual Walk-n-Bowl, hosted for the fourth consecutive time by the Realty Direct NY Autism Foundation on Sunday, April 8. The event raised $4,487 for autism awareness and children with special needs.
The day began with a morning march down Deer Park Avenue and ended with an afternoon of bowling and raffles.
“All the funds that we raise go to supplying classrooms with wish-lists or specific students who are having a hard time who need communication devices or other types of learning tools to ease their classroom situation so they can focus more with the teacher,” Laura Frangipani, a member of the foundation’s board of directors, said. “We will try to reach out as far as we can to help these children, there’s no limit to what we will do.”
One of the goals of the Walk-n-Bowl, which was held at Strike 10 Lanes in Deer Park, was to give children with developmental disabilities and their families an opportunity to have fun in a judgement-free environment.
“It’s a really big deal because it is very difficult to have a child with autism,” Kristin Howe, mother of Michael Howe, said. “It means a lot to have an event where if they have meltdowns, it’s okay.”
This year was the first time the event included the ‘walk’ portion of the Walk-n-Bowl. The foundation enlisted the help of the Suffolk County Police Department and Deer Park Fire Department to block off Deer Park Avenue for a march from the Realty Direct NY offices to the bowling alley.
“We figured we needed to get out there, we needed to get these kids out there, and we needed to show what we are doing,” Amy Kernaghan, the founder and president of the Realty Direct NY Autism Foundation, said.
The foundation and fundraiser were the brainchild of Kernaghan, after her own son was diagnosed with autism and she witnessed his day-to-day struggles.
Autism is a type of developmental disability that begins in childhood and is characterized by severe to minor social and behavioral setbacks. Parents of autistic children are proven to have higher stress levels, which can be magnified when they do not have an extended support system.
“It’s important to learn from professionals, other parents and from the families that surround autism,” Danielle Brooks, the founder of the Specialized Autism Support and Information Group (SASI), said. “It takes a village to raise a child with autism.”