Unified Bowling Rolls through Another Popular Season


Members of the Warren Hills Best Buddies club warm up for a Unified Bowling competition at Oakwood Lanes in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Andy Oakley)

Warren Hills’ Best Buddies organization in February completed another season of Unified Bowling, a sports program that emphasizes inclusion among all students and abilities.

Unified Bowling is one of several programs organized by Best Buddies at Warren Hills to build relationships through sports. 

This past season, about a dozen or more students during most Mondays in December, January and February took a school bus to Oakwood Lanes on Route 31 in Washington to bowl together.

“My favorite part was that it was a great way for all of us to bond with other people in the club that maybe are not our buddy pairs,” said junior Sydney White. “We had so much fun every time, and I can’t wait for when we do it next year.”

Warren Hills students bowled twice during the season with Unified Bowling teams from North Hunterdon Regional High School and Somerville High School. The Warren Hills students were able to meet people from outside their own school district and enjoy snacks once the friendly competition was over.

Best Buddies, founded in 1989, is an international organization aimed at ending social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the years the nonprofit has engaged participants in the United States and in 47 countries around the world, according to the Best Buddies website, www.bestbuddies.org. 

About five years ago, the Warren Hills Best Buddies club came up with the idea of having people get together for bowling a few times during the school year. In 2018 the students came up with Unified Bowling. 

“The implementation of a Unified Bowling team at Warren Hills Regional High School was a way to promote inclusive sports participation and build relationships between teammates,” explained English Teacher Toni Manfra, who is the Best Buddies faculty advisor. “This effort helps to create a welcoming and inclusive school environment and provides opportunities for students to develop important social and athletic skills, as well as form meaningful friendships.” 

The benefits of Unified Bowling are spreading around the country. The National Federation of State High School Associations says that such growth is taking place because “adding a Unified Bowling program can create a more inclusive school environment, better community relations, and have minimal impact on school finances.”

Along with many other events that Best Buddies holds throughout the school year, Unified Bowling is a way for participants to create new relationships with people they may not see during the average academic school day. 

“I decided to become more involved in the club after my first year as a freshman,” said senior Gabriella Fama, chapter president of Warren Hills’ Best Buddies. “I loved learning what the club was all about and attending all of the events. 

“The inclusivity and welcoming environment was something I admired and wanted to contribute to. This inspired me to take a more active role in the planning aspect of the club. Once I joined the executive board as a sophomore, I knew this was something I wanted to continue to pursue for the rest of high school.”

Every year the club holds events, such as a Valentine’s Day dance and December holiday caroling in the high school’s hallways. The club members are always thinking of new ideas for the future as well.

Best Buddies offers opportunities for students to get one on one time with friends that have  intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“The program is very important and special to many people,” Manfra said.