Sitting in a wheelchair, Michele Finnan held a bright red bowling ball on her lap and rolled it slowly back and forth. A foot away from the foul line at the East Meadow Bowling Alley, she contemplated how hard she would have to push the ball down the metal ramp in front of her. Finnan, of Levittown, who can see only light, shadows and movement, is legally blind. But she is nonetheless able to bowl, and even scores the occasional strike or spare.
“I know the direction I’m supposed to go, and push it that way, but I have to admit, I’m sometimes very surprised how well I do,” Finnan said with a smile. “Bowling balls have such a wonderful touch. I love it here.”
The joy that Finnan and others experience is due to the efforts of the members of the North Shore Lions of Glen Cove, many of whom live in Glen Cove, Sea Cliff, Glen Head and Old Brookville.
Originally from Upper Brookville, Rosemarie Marciano, the Lions District 20-K2’s cabinet treasurer, has organized the Blind Bowling League for the past 15 years. Funded entirely by the service organization, the league is open to people of varying disabilities, but most are legally blind.
It meets every other weekend for 17 weeks, from the Saturday after Labor Day to the end of April. Members bowl free of charge, and also get a free lunch.
“Many from our league used to bowl here years ago, but the person coordinating it didn’t want to do it anymore,” said Marciano, adding that the bowlers had to pay back then, and didn’t receive a free lunch. “I went to see them bowl 15 years ago, and, coincidentally, they were told that day that it would be their last day to bowl in the league,” she recalled. “They were all crying, and I told them I’d see what I could do.”
She brought the idea to a Lions District 20-K2 meeting, and it was approved. Marciano has been running the league ever since.
The number of bowlers varies each week, she said. There were 10 enthusiastic participants last Saturday.
Two kinds of portable metal rails assist the bowlers. One guides those who need to grip it to the foul line, where a waiting Lion will help them throw the ball down the lane. The other has a ramp that allows the ball, once released, to roll down onto the lane. A former member’s father created the rails.
Jerry Manes, of East Meadow, could hardly contain his excitement when it was his turn. “I try to keep the ball straight and bowl as hard as I can,” he said before releasing the ball. Manes did pretty well, eventually finishing with scores of 82 and 89.
Fred Rieger, a past district governor of District 20-K2 from the Sea Cliff Glen Head Lions Club, helped Mary Corbett, who is totally blind, when it was her turn. “Bowling is a great sport,” she said. “I use the bumpers, and when I let the ball go I hope it comes out well.” It did that day for Corbett, who bowled an 86 and a 90.
Lions District Governor Nina Lanci, from Bellmore, attributes much of the program’s success to Marciano. “The league empowers these individuals to experience socialization,” Lanci explained. “Rosemarie is an ordinary Lion who does extraordinary things, which she does from her heart and soul.”
But Marciano doesn’t want to take all the credit. She said she loves just being there. “This is one of my favorite things to do,” she said, her eyes on the bowlers. “When I take Jerry [Manes] home I hear him say to his mother that he’s so excited — he bowled a 100! That means a lot.”
“The pleasure this gives to them is what’s special,” said Amy Tabor, of Glen Head. “Many have come here for years and really look forward to it.”
Nearby, Anthony Angrisani was dancing with abandon. Legally blind, he said he enjoys dancing between shots. “Anthony has a great time dancing up a storm,” said Marlene Michnowich, of Glen Cove, laughing. “We actually call him the John Travolta of blind bowling.”
The last two Blind Bowling days this season are scheduled for April 8 and 22. Call Marciano for further information on how to join the league, or to volunteer, at (516) 884-1875.