THEY HAD talkedfor years about bringing some kind of sports program to their school. But atthe Hawaii Center for the Deaf and the Blind, a school in Honolulu with 28 highschool students, Eric Dela Pena, a teacher's assistant, and Steven Hanai, asocial worker, faced serious challenges. Many of the kids were not athleticallyinclined since, as Dela Pena says, "society does not expect much from themin a physical sense." A few deaf students played football and basketball atnearby Kalani High, but they needed an interpreter to get play calls, or toknow when a referee blew a whistle. The kids never really felt like they were apart of the team.
Then last yearthe two men struck upon the idea of bowling as a sport that deaf kids might beable to do as well as anyone else. "Bowling," says Dela Pena,"seemed to have the least hurdles."
In September2005, the five members of the newly formed HCDB Dolphins boys' team, competedin a varsity match--the first varsity event in their school's 82-year history.Although apprehensive at first about how they would communicate with theiropponents, the deaf students wound up teaching the bowlers from Kailua High afew basic signs--and then beat them 2--1. "Bowling has been a great sourceof school pride," says senior captain Vuong Ho, 17, who bowled a team-high145 on that afternoon.
Truthfully, theDolphins are not especially good at bowling--the boys' team is 7--20 and thegirls' team is 4--23 this year--but they are not especially bad either, andthat's the point. Although no sports are yet offered to the blind students atHCDB, Dela Pena and Hanai are thinking of adding wrestling, volleyball anddiving to their athletic program for deaf students next year. "Everyone whosees these kids compete learns," Hanai said. "They're just likeeverybody else. They just can't hear."
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