The following story was published in Castleton University's student publication, the Castleton Spartan, on December 13, 2017. It was written by Brigitta Gough with photo by Brigitta Gough.
In the fall of 2016, Castleton STEPS student Brandon Farrell started the Bowling Club. He has been bowling since he was four years old and it shows. On Nov. 16 at one of the club’s practices, he got five strikes in a row in one game with a final score of 180 points.
That isn’t his highest score ever, though.
“I always like to challenge myself to see if I can get a higher score than I used to, like my high score now is a 276,” Farrell said.
He started competing at the age of six or seven years old and once his attempt to make a bowling club in high school did not succeed, he made it his mission to start one in college.
Patricia Moore, coordinator of the STEPS program that provides colege experience for those with developmental disabilities, asked Farrell what he liked to do in his free time and what clubs he wanted to join at Castleton when he came to the school in the fall of 2016. His immediate reply was he wanted to have a bowling club.
STEPS mentors, who also worked in Residence Life, suggested they contact Director of Residence Life, Michael Robilotto to start the club because he was interested in bowling as well.
“My initial response was ‘yes let’s do it, why not try something new because we had interest from students last year so we went ahead and did it,” Robilotto said.
He said the challenge was finding people to do it.
In their first meeting they had fewer than 10 students, but now the club as expanded to over ten. Last year when the club began they just bowled for fun. Now they are competing in tournaments in the USBC Collegiate League.
This year alone they have already competed in two tournaments and plan to compete in at least one more before the end of the semester.
The members of the club are supportive of each other. They high five each other after each person goes and they cheer each other on. For Farrell, this has helped him.
“From my perspective, this has been a truly amazing experience. I’ve seen so much growth in Farrell; in his self-esteem, being able to independently communicate with people about rides, getting together and stuff,” Moore said.
The captain of the bowling club Anissa Martin was thrilled to help start the club with Farrell. Bowling is a sport she loves and has been playing since she was two. Bowling runs in both Farrell and Martin’s families for generations.
Martin worked closely with Farrell to start the club and still relies on his input for its future.
“We’re still very close. I go to him for advice on what he wants to see come out of the club because he did found it and I feel like his decisions and his opinions are very important to my decisions,” Martin said.
Martin says that their goal is to have fun and support each other.
“I consider this a family,” Martin said.
Farrell is happy he started the club. It allows him to keep improving along with the three other leagues he competes in.
“He’s very dedicated to bowling, it’s very important to him,” Robilotto said.
One of the greatest parts of the club for Farrell is that it has allowed him to get out of his comfort zone and make friends.
“That’s where I met all my new friends I made this year, most of them, the majority of the friends I’ve made this year are through bowling club,” Farrell said.
Moore agrees that this has been one of the greatest parts of the club, she said that he wouldn’t have been able to communicate the way he does now a year ago.
“Bowling club has given him that confidence to reach out,” Moore said.