There is a popular quote, “All good things must come to an end.” And that sentiment relates to the Special Bowlers Carnival Club.
Formed 30 years ago as a way to provide the experience of a Mardi Gras ball for young men and women with disabilities and special needs, the club recently hosted its last dance.
In 1984, there were three bowling leagues for people with disabilities: Special Rollers, Happy Bowlers, and Arabi Bowlers. Many of the bowlers knew each other from childhood programs, school or working together at nonprofit agencies which offered training and employment. Some bowled in more than one of the leagues.
During 1984, money was raised from various sources such as local TV and radio stations, Lion’s Clubs, and other civic organizations to buy tickets for the bowlers to attend the World’s Fair in New Orleans.
Marvin Gates, founding board member and past-president, explained how the club began.
“After returning from the fair, we still had money left and more donations had come in,” he said, “Several other parents and I decided to use these monies to give the members a Mardi Gras ball, as many would most likely never attend nor be part of one.”
Gates, whose late son Marvin Jr. participated in a couple of the leagues, contacted the Fraternal Order of Police Hall on Downman Road for use of the hall for the event. Once this permission was given, the idea blossomed. The FOP also donated the soft drinks. The remaining donated funds were used to purchase food, decorations and to pay for a DJ. The morning of the ball, Gates, along with parents Nell and Wayne Kruebbe, Diane and Don Lynch, Gloria Blum and others met at the hall to prepare the food, set up and decorate.
As the special guests began arriving, attendees’ names were placed in specially decorated boxes (one for females and one for males) from which the names of the court would be drawn: four maids, four dukes, a king and a queen.
When a name was drawn the individual was taken to another room where he or she received a banner signifying their rank and a crown as the reigning royalty. Then the court was presented to the audience.
The evening was a huge success and the leagues were brought together to form a social club: Special Bowlers Carnival Club. A ball has been hosted every year since.
The club also began to have holiday dances during the year. In order to help keep the momentum going, a small amount of membership dues were assessed yearly to cover expenses of the ball and for insurance.
But over the past few years, especially after Hurricane Katrina, as funding became more difficult and membership began to decline, the board in discussion with President Sandy Kyle decided that it was time to bring the club to an end. The Special Rollers and Happy Bowlers leagues are still active.
Gates said, “Few of the original members remain. Some have moved away, and many members and parents have passed away. This organization has always had great member and parent volunteer support. There was no dissension, we knew that we were all in this together.”
Gates served as president from 1984 to 2004, but remained committed to and involved in the club.
The final dance was at the St. Jerome Lion’s Club in Kenner. Parents reminisced, members danced, enjoyed being with each other and viewing photos from past events which on display.
There is another quote from author Louis L’Amour which rings true for the Special Bowlers Carnival Club, “A good beginning makes a good ending.”
Jane Pic Adams writes about issues of interest to individuals with disabilities and their families. Contact her at email@example.com.