SARTELL, Minn. — Thirteen-year-old Morgan Bissett casually hands one of her forearm crutches to her mother before walking on to the bowling alley.
She supports her weight with her other crutch, as she grabs a bowling ball and hurls it down the lane. Soon, the satisfying crack of ball against pin signals she's knocked over several pins. She repeats the process for her second roll and then sits down to chat with friends and family.
Bissett was just one of the nearly two-dozen kids with disabilities who recently came out to bowl at Great River Bowl in Sartell.
United Cerebral Palsy of Central Minnesota, or UCP, hosts Super Strikers, a casual league for kids with disabilities and their families. It's offered for four weeks, twice a year, said Carl Newbanks, director of programs and community relations.
Bowling has some clear advantages for kids with disabilities and their families, he told the St. Cloud Times .
"The kids can bowl. They can be themselves," Newbanks said. "That's probably one of our biggest benefits. The families get to come. They get to be together. All they have to do is get here."
It helps kids develop muscle and motor skills. It helps them learn to plan ahead, when deciding where to aim their ball. They also learn social skills, such as waiting in line and waiting for their turn.
There's time for bonding, with families, with other parents dealing with similar challenges, and for the kids to meet one another.
"The parents get to chat and talk to each other and encourage each other," Newbanks said.
It's also a safe space, where kids don't have to worry about being treated differently from other kids or singled out.
"You can imagine if you're beside a real serious bowler and you've got a student with a disability who's a little noisy," Newsbanks said. "That's why we rent the private room. The families don't have to be concerned about ruining anyone else's game."
A sponsor helps cover the cost of the private room and the bowling alley gives some breaks on pricing for games and shoe rental.
"At the end, everyone gets a ribbon for participating and we have a pizza party for the last day," Newbanks said. "That's their reward."
Bissett said she's been coming bowling for four years now.
In the summer, she plays softball as part of the Miracle League, a program played on fields that are accessible to kids with disabilities. She was born with spina bifida. That means she has had to learn to swing and throw with only one arm as the other supports her weight.
"I have to do it one-handed, so whenever I do it I chop at it," she explained. "But I'm working on that and it's hard."
Bowling came a little easier.
"The bowling was easy at first. But the softball, I had to kind of get used to it," she said. "And to the balls, because they're tossed at you. They literally look like they're going to be like this far from your face." She holds her palm close to her nose.
And it's all arm strength she uses, as she can't twist her body to add momentum as other people do when throwing or hitting.
"It's from all the bowling," she said.
When she's not bowling, she's watching her brothers play hockey — or driving to places to watch her brothers play hockey.
"It's very interactive and gets me out of the house," she said. "If I'm not (bowling), that's what I'm doing 24/7."
Bissett is a seventh-grader at Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph. Her favorite subject is social studies.
"I just love learning about the world," she said. "Whenever I get that question, I don't think about it. I always say social studies."
On the far end of the bowling alley Rudy Kroska, 28, of Foley, was bowling with his friend he's known since preschool.
"They've been bowling together for years and years, years and years," Newbanks said. "They really look forward to bowling together and being together."
The friends started going bowling at least 10 or 15 years ago, said Bernadette Kroska, Rudy Kroska's mother. Rudy Kroska and his friend both have Down syndrome.
Rudy Kroska wore an old Super Striker's shirt, one of his favorites. Bernadette Kroska said she sometimes has to sneak it away from her son to get it washed.
He is one of nine children, who grew up on a Foley farm — six brothers and two sisters. He's second from the youngest, so he has a lot of older siblings to look up to.
"He loves listening to his four brothers in a band," Bernadette Kroska said. "When they have practice, he wants to go to practice. But he just loves his brothers. He loves his whole family, actually."
On the other end of the alley, 15-year-old Reilly McCormick enthusiastically waits for her turn.
She was born with a rare genetic disorder, 11q deletion disorder or Jacobsen syndrome. It can cause serious intellectual disabilities, physical problems, delayed development and other issues.
In her case, McCormick has difficulty speaking, but that doesn't stop her from socializing, said her grandmother Audrey Dailey.
"Reilly can't talk much," said Dennis Dailey, Audrey Dailey's husband and McCormick's grandfather. "But she can let us know what the heck she wants."
Audrey and Dennis Dailey came to the bowling alley to watch her bowl.
"She called us this morning and talked to grandma and said she's going to go bowling and wanted grandma to come," Dennis Dailey said. "She calls grandma every morning. She calls grandma every afternoon."
McCormick has been bowling for five years now. It helps her learn motor control, Audrey Dailey said. She plays in the Miracle League, too, which also helps.
"And she makes friends," Audrey Dailey said. "She learns to take turns. She's very social and she likes to tell people what to do."
"If she could talk, she'd be running for mayor or something," Dennis Dailey said.
They enjoy seeing her at events like Super Strikers, because then she isn't the odd one out.
"She's around everybody that's equal and everybody gets a shot," Dennis Dailey said. "She's taught us a lot."
"It opened up a whole new world when she was born," Audrey Dailey said.
For the Daileys, it's a joy just to see her having fun.
"We're very proud of her. We're very proud that she can do it," Audrey Dailey said. "Because at one time we didn't know if she'd walk. To be able to do this is great."
An AP Member Exchange shared by the St. Cloud Times.