Jacob Parker Swipes Silver at Special Olympics New Jersey Bowling Tourney

Mar 27, 2019
Courtesy of: Cindy Parker Little Egg Harbor’s Jacob Parker acknowledges the crowd after placing second in his division during the Special Olympics New Jersey Spring Games bowling tournament on March 24.

Some 14 years ago, Jacob Parker took an interest in bowling. And while he’s been bowling on and off for a while, competing in the public realm hadn’t been much of an option until recently.

“From a behavioral standpoint, it just wasn’t the right thing for him or others,” said his mother, Cindy, who on March 24 was part of the crowd at Bowlero in North Brunswick cheering on Jacob during the Special Olympics New Jersey Spring Games bowling tournament. “It’s taken a long time to get Jake to the point where he could be part of a competitive environment in public. Now he really enjoys it.”

On Sunday, the 24-year-old from Little Egg Harbor represented the Silver Surfers program associated with Brett DiNovi & Associates (BDA) – an applied behavior analysis and therapy group which provides support services for families of individuals with autism – and bowled well enough to grab a silver medal in his division, recording scores of 83, 80 and 107 for a 270 series.

“This was Jake’s first year competing in Special Olympics and he’s done great,” Cindy said. “We really didn’t anticipate him going this far. We just weren’t sure how he’d handle it, but he’s had some wonderful people helping him and coaching him, and Jake really took off once he became comfortable with them.”

On Feb. 23, Jacob earned his position in the state’s Spring Games by winning the Area 6 tournament with a 304 series. He rolled games of 76, 139 and 89, and “everybody was hootin’ and hollerin’ that day,” his mother said.

“He bowled awesome that day,” she said. “The past month has been really great for him, and this is such a big deal because a year ago this wouldn’t have been possible. But it’s only because of the patience and dedication of the people working with him that he’s been able to get this far.”

Erin Coxen, who oversees the operation of the BDA Special Olympics program for Ocean and Monmouth counties, has known Jacob and was the one who reached out to Cindy and home board-certified behavior analyst Veronica DePinto about the possibility of Jacob joining the bowling program.

“I knew Jacob had enjoyed bowling and it was the perfect fit for him,” Coxen said. “Over the years, we have seen Jacob grow into an incredible young man. We work a lot on social skills and being in the community, and participating in a sport he loves was the next step in his success.”

Coxen said Special Olympics New Jersey offers athletes opportunities to compete in sports they otherwise never would.

“Bowling season was a great way for Jacob to meet new friends, practice new skills and have an incredible season that led him to winning a silver medal,” she said. “He’s also part of our functional fitness program, Movement Matters, and he’ll soon be making his track and field debut this spring and summer.”

Cindy Parker said Jacob likes competition and looks forward to the days he is scheduled to compete.

“If he pays attention, he does well,” she said. “It’s only when a blond, blue-eyed woman shows up that he has trouble paying attention. But if he enjoys track and field as much as he did bowling, it will be fun to see where he goes with it.”

— David Biggy


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