SELINSGROVE — Nearly a decade ago, Susan Bolig was looking for an activity for her son, who has autism, and for other special needs children.
So she created the Strikers Bowling Team, which just completed its ninth season Sunday at Best Bowl near Selinsgrove. Her son, Ryan, now 18, still participates.
The team that started with 25 bowlers has grown to 57. In the eighth and final week, 51 bowlers participated in the final games, some in Halloween costumes.
"I just wanted to find an activity for children with special needs," Bolig said. "I wanted them to feel like they were on a team."
To that end, she had yellow T-shirts made up for bowlers and blue ones for herself and the parents who help out.
The bowlers receive trophies every year, and the team will have a pizza party on Sunday at the Selinsgrove VFW, said Bolig, 58, of Selinsgrove.
The team is open to special needs kids up to age 21.
"I don't care what their medical condition is and what their needs are," she said. "They just have to be in school."
Bolig said that for the first two years, it was difficult for her son because of the noise. The rolling of the balls, balls crashing into the pins, and people cheering can be loud. She found, though, putting Ryan on an end lane where it is a little quieter helped. Now he looks forward to going, she said.
"It is nice to see the growth of the kids," Bolig said. "They help each other."
"It's a great program," said Miranda Morningstar, of Middleburg, whose daughter Kelsey Herrold has been participating for about four years. "It's a wonderful program. It gives all of them a chance to get out and have fun."
Kristian Creeger, of West Milton, brought daughter Ellie, 14, who was dressed as a princess, and son Isaiah, 12, who wore a New York Yankees shirt.
Asked her favorite part of bowling, Ellie quietly said something to her mother.
"She likes to dress up as a princess," Kristian Creeger said.
Griffin Swan, 6, of Mount Pleasant Mills, uses a powered chair to get around. To bowl, he and some of the other bowlers used a metal frame ramp to roll the ball down the lanes, where metal rails were installed on either side to prevent gutter balls.
His favorite part of bowling, according to mom Jamie Swan, is "pushing it."
The team uses 14 lanes for its games. That requires some assistance. Bolig has help from parents Brenda Laubach and Tiffany Knepp, both of Middleburg, and Angie Longacre and Terri Manning, both of Mount Pleasant Mills, and students from Susquehanna University and Bucknell University.
Participation is free for the families, thanks to the help of numerous businesses that donate money to the bowling team.
"We also do fundraising," Bolig said.