August 21, 2014

The First Annual VIBBY Award!

Some of my readers know that I am an avid lawn bowler and play as often as I can with the New York Lawn Bowling Club in Central Park.  Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a remarkable new event that we hope will become an annual date on the calendar.  It was the first annual VIBBY tournament - a unique collaboration between the New York Lawn Bowling Club (NYLBC) and In Tandem, a group of bicycle enthusiasts who just happen to be visually impaired.

As with many of life's great ideas, it all started with a conversation between two friends, one a college professor and active NYLBC bowler and his friend who began In Tandem.  Working with the principal that a visually impaired person, the "stoker", can ride a tandem bike with a sighted "captain", why couldn't the same partnership be applied to lawn bowling?  And so they began to offer Monday night training sessions on the lawn bowling green in Central Park.

The response was very positive and the new players worked hard on their games in preparation for the first annual VIBBY Tournament - Visually Impaired Bowlers with an extra "BY" for emphasis!  A call went out for volunteers and somewhat apprehensively I signed up.

I can tell you that this was one of the best experiences I have ever had on the lawn bowling green.  I arrived with absolutely no idea what to expect and left with an even higher regard for people who overcome physical challenges with enthusiasm and determination.

One dozen bowlers afflicted with varying degrees of blindness arrived at the green with white sticks and dogs ready for a big adventure.  We had set up six rinks each with a white string from end to end so the bowlers could either feel the line or see it.  Then we chalk-marked jack (target) distances of 21, 22 and 23 meters directly onto the grass to eliminate the need to roll and center the jack. 

After a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and a coin toss, the competition was on!  Six singles games of six ends each with a sighted assistant - my job - at one end with the bowlers and another standing at the jack to clap giving the bowlers a target and then to call out where the bowl had landed.  After each end was played, I would take my bowlers, sometimes by the hand, down to the other end of the rink and bowl back.

Excitement was high as we reached the final playoffs and all participants were on the green breathlessly following the play-by-play calls of the sighted assistant.  Two women bowlers battled it out for first and second place and finally it was Kim Paulk who prevailed.  She had had an especially good week as her employer, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, had given her a shout-out on the company website for her exceptional performance as an Apple specialist.  When you consider that Kim has been hearing and vision impaired since birth, it was a particularly sweet moment.

The First Annual VIBBY tournament was an huge success and a good time was had by all.  Even my initial trepidation - more an anxiety with the unfamiliar - disappeared in minutes and I was totally engrossed in the event and "my bowlers".   After the trophy presentation several of the organizers and participants thanked me for helping to make the event a success.  But the truth of the matter is this - it is I who thank all of you for your courage, for your energy and for your inspiring spirit.  It was a marvelous day!

P.S.  With special thanks to Alan Winson and Stanley Zucker who made this all happen!


Alan Winson said...

Georgina - You are wonderful and so is this pictorial-article-description of a special day on the Central Park Greens. It is up there with Ryan's and Joe's wedding.
Love your blog!!!

Margie Barclay said...

Hurrah for the NY Lawn Bowling Club still strong after almost 100 years.