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Wheelchair fails to pin this bowler down

Student rolls scores of up to 155 with special equipment

Posted: May 6, 2009 9:10 p.m.
Updated: May 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons student Jennifer Hoffman, 23, bowls from her wheelchair at Santa Clarita Lanes on Wednesday.

Jenny Hoffman has become quite the celebrity at Santa Clarita Lanes over the last few months.

The 23-year-old was all smiles Wednesday as she rolled down the lanes in her wheelchair, accompanied by applause from a senior-citizens’ bowling league and her fellow College of the Canyons’ bowling classmates.

Every Monday and Wednesday, Hoffman bowls for an hour with the College of the Canyons bowling class. Her wheelchair sets her apart from her classmates, but it doesn’t stop her from enjoying an activity she’s come to love.

“I want (people) to know just because you have a disability, doesn’t mean you can’t do something,” said Hoffman, of Valencia. “You can do anything you set your mind to if you try.” Hoffman was born three months premature and diagnosed with cerebral palsy at six months of age.

Cerebral palsy is an incurable condition that causes loss of muscular control and coordination.

“My muscles sometimes get very tight and sometimes have jerky movements,” she said. Because of her condition, Hoffman also suffers from visual impairment and has been confined to a wheelchair since age five.

Despite her physical limitations, she has a desire to stay active and try new things, such as swimming and bowling.  

Hoffman’s community trainer, Araceli Mesina, sets up the metal ramp, provided by the bowling alley, next to Hoffman’s wheelchair and carries each bowling ball from the ball drop to the ramp.

Hoffman takes over from there, using her strength to push the ball off the ramp and onto the lane.

Her strategy is pretty simple, Hoffman said.

“I throw the ball and it flies off the ramp,” she said. “I have to aim in the right direction – (especially) like when there is a split.”

Hoffman is no stranger to strikes and spares. She estimated she bowled about five strikes on Wednesday out of three games.

Her balls rarely touched the bumpers on Wednesday and, she said, even when the ball doesn’t go her way, she’s learned to let it go.

“I’ve learned not to (get frustrated), because it’s just a game,” she said.

Mesina said Hoffman’s scores have improved since February. Her average is 103 and her highest game was 155, according to Margie Ray, junior coordinator of Santa Clarita Lanes.

“She just glows. She waits for this day,” Ray said. “She makes sure when she leaves she checks out her scores and then she goes home and shows her parents.”

The class instructor, Chuck Lyon, said many bowling alley visitors have come to embrace Hoffman.

“She enjoys coming here, she’s always smiling,” he said. “I love how she gets excited.”

Hoffman plans to continue bowling at Santa Clarita Lanes even after the class is over.


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