A day at Vermont South AAA program
It’s 9:30am at Vermont South Bowling Club.
Bernadette Ross and her team of five volunteers as well as a team of volunteers from EACH Social and Community Health head to the Shed to grab some Bowls, mats and wheelchair ramp ahead of the their Wednesday Morning All Abilities Program.
“Grab the Bowls with the yellow dogs for Steve – he loves those ones!”
The program initiated by Teresa and Bernadette at Vermont South Bowling Club began 7 years ago as a come and try day for Bowlers with a Disability. Since then the program has flourished, having 8-12 participants come and bowl at the club every week. The program is run from the months of October to May each year, so as you can imagine – the relationship between Vermont South Bowling Club and these Bowlers on and off the green, has grown at a boundless rate.
At 9:45am the convoys of Maxi Taxi’s arrive with the participants.
Some come alone and some come with carers, but all find someone to chat throughout their two hours at the Bowling Club.
The participants in this all abilities program have acquired brain injuries through their life, many through either the trauma of a car accident or stroke, but this does not stop their ability out on the green.
By 10am, all the volunteers have brought out all the boards, mats and all the right bowls for each bowler and all participants are out on the green, raring to go!
Wednesday Morning cannot come quick enough for these bowlers, judging by the smiles on each of their faces as they enter the Bowling Club!
From the left hand side of the Vermont South green, Warren arrives early and leaves earlier than most of the participants in the group, his independence shows that he can bowl to his own target as he doesn’t see the wheelchair as a barrier to stop him from putting down some great Bowls throughout the hour or so that he comes down for.
Dean, in the wheelchair next to Warren, cannot speak one word. But this is made up for by his listening and bowling ability. Dean is pictured above with Vermont South Bowling Club volunteer, Peter who is helping him bowl with a timing ramp.
Peter taught Dean to bowl many years ago but is unable to get down to the club each week through injury. On this special occasion, Peter made it back to the Bowling Club and helped Dean Bowl once again, and didn’t this show on the green! Pictured below is the outcome from Dean’s six bowls with Peter’s assistance. According to Bernadette, when Peter and Dean first met, “they hit it off” largely through Peter’s ability to hold the bowl in Dean’s hand a certain way. Apparently (due to Peter’s presence), Dean hasn’t bowled this well in months!
Greg, who sits next to Dean, doesn’t let his disability affect his bowling ability. Greg enjoys bowling and doesn’t mind having a chat to each of the club volunteers and the other participants and is usually the last one to leave! Greg also doesn’t mind letting everyone know how he’s going. “I’m fantastic” was one of the phrases used as he put another good bowl near the jack!
When 10:30am comes around, any person attending the club at this time would struggle to get a word in!
Each of the Bowlers are having a great time, and there is a great feeling amongst the club with the volunteers from EACH and Vermont South Bowling Club joining in the loud discussions.
More often than not, this loud noise is coming through bowler Steve and his competitive nature!
Steve, Tree and Blair bowl next to Greg and the trio have a great laugh whilst trying to beat each other on each end. Usually, the morning consists of a running commentary from Steve as Tree and Blair focus on putting some great bowls down from their chairs to try and beat him! The three of them sit side by side and it’s rare to see one of them without a smile on their face.
Next to the trio are Michael and Craig. Both players (pictured above playing against Russell from EACH) regularly come out victorious against whichever volunteer puts their hand up to be defeated for the week! Both enjoy getting down to the Bowls Club once a week and don’t see their disability as a barrier to come and have a bowl.
At 11am – It’s only a matter of time before the participants get tired of putting the bowls so close to the jack, so it’s time for morning tea!
One by one, the participants file into the Vermont South Bowling Club rooms for a tea or coffee and a biscuit (or three!) and are made to feel part of the club. The conversations from out on the green continue on inside, with each of the club volunteers enjoying every second as they sit around each of the tables and talk with the participants.
By 11:45am, the Taxis are called for and all participants finish for another week.
So why is this program still so successful after 7 years?
“It’s a friendly and inclusive club” Bernadette explains, “we’ve got a great group of volunteers who aren’t forced to be here and end up getting as much out of the program as the participants!”
It’s evident that Vermont South Bowling Club is on board with the program, dedicating a rotating roster of volunteers each week to come down and help.
If you are looking to get involved with the program or help out on a Wednesday Morning, Vermont South Bowling Club would love to see you!
Contact Bernadette at the club on 03 9886 3322