Striking Success for Gahanna Special Olympics!

Bowling is more than just a Sport!

By Lily Coates

For the first time ever, the Gahanna Special Olympics bowling team is set to compete in the 2024 State Summer Games. This is not to say that Gahanna has never had a bowling team, because they have. Gahanna’s bowling team actually participated in the State Fall Games for twenty years. It’s just that five years ago, Special Olympics Ohio moved the sport from the fall season to the summer. This change was initially challenging for Gahanna, as fall bowling fit better into their yearly schedule. Recognizing that bowling is their biggest and most popular sport, the team decided to restart their efforts and gear up for the 2024 State Summer Games. The team has trained rigorously, practicing weekly and participating in local competitions to hone their skills.

I had the opportunity to sit in on one of their practices and get a behind-the-scenes look at what a typical practice is like for Gahanna bowling. The team practices every Thursday from 6-8 PM, with younger bowlers practicing from 6-7 PM and more experienced athletes from 7-8 PM. This division of practice time ensures that all team members, regardless of their skill level, have the opportunity to improve and contribute to the team’s success. Gahanna’s practice season begins in March and continues until the end of June. During my time at their practice, I was able to speak to many of their athletes and coaches about their experience with Special Olympics Ohio.

Keyona Peck, one of Gahanna Bowling’s key players, shared her excitement about the upcoming event: “Gahanna’s Special Olympics means a lot to me because I want to become the best athlete I can be.” In addition to bowling, Peck enjoys participating in track and field, basketball, and flag football. She was also honored with the role of Final Leg torchbearer in this year’s opening ceremony held at Ohio Stadium. Coming up on July 1st, the Gahanna City Council invited Peck to speak at the declaration of July as Disability Pride Month.

I was joined by two of Keyona Peck’s friends and teammates, Makenna Carper and Hannah McCaslin, who are also competing in this year’s 2024 Summer Games. When asked why they joined the Special Olympics, all three athletes shared a common reason: to meet new people. They emphasized how Special Olympics provided them with the opportunity to make new friends and see them on a weekly basis.

Special Olympics has proven to be a symbol of friendship and family. Athletes Stacy Baldwin and Jessie Bickley are teammates, roommates, and friends. They are a prime example of how Special Olympics brings people together. Baldwin and Bickley knew each other before Special Olympics, but their connection has only grown since they’ve been able to compete together.

Gahanna bowling coach, John Carper, echoes this sentiment, highlighting the deep bonds formed within the organization. “Our organization is aging. We’ve gone from teenagers to 20-year-olds to early 30s, so seeing them mature and grow is spectacular,” says Carper. Carper has been a part of this organization since 2016, and he was introduced to the program through his daughter, current Special Olympics athlete Makenna Carper. “I’m part of this family,” says Carper, “and after I became part of the family, there are no other people I would rather hang around with.”

In addition to meeting new people and making new friends, Special Olympics allows athletes to stay active and keep their bodies moving. This was one of the key reasons athlete Merideth Paul joined the organization. Competing in Special Olympics for the first time, Paul emphasized that the experience has not only made her more active and involved, but also significantly happier, a testament to the positive impact of the organization on her life.

As we near the State Summer Games, excitement is building in Gahanna. The community and athletes eagerly anticipate this milestone event, ready to showcase their skills, foster new friendships, and celebrate their achievements. The Gahanna Special Olympics bowling team’s journey to the State Summer Games is a testament to their dedication, hard work, and the unifying spirit of sportsmanship.

The 2024 State Summer Games, to be held in Columbus from June 28th to 30th, will feature athletes from across the state competing in various sports such as athletics (track & field) bocce, bowling, gymnastics, powerlifting, soccer, tennis, and volleyball. The bowling competition is set for Bowlero Columbus, 4825 Sawmill Rd, in Columbus.

If you are interested in coaching at Special Olympics Ohio, go to or just click on this link to find out more: Be a Coach.

Author Lily Coates is a MarComms intern for Special Olympics Ohio, and is a student at The Ohio State University.