White Cane Club members find bowling to be up their alley

Carl Hnatyshyn/Sarnia This Week Michelle Gibbs and volunteer Jane K. prepare to knock down some pins during Sarnia-Lambton White Cane's weekly bowling social at Point Edward's Mancin Bowl.

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By her own account, 92-year-old Sophie Jackson should be one of the most talented and successful bowlers.


For the past 25 years, Jackson – the past president of the Sarnia-Lambton White Cane Club – has been coming to Point Edward’s Marcin Bowl for a weekly get-together with visually impaired community members and volunteers to play several rounds of five-pin bowling.


Yet even with all those hours spent bowling, Jackson admits her prowess has not improved.


If anything, it’s become worse, she said.


“I’m not a very good bowler – I should be – but I seem to be getting worse every year,” she said with a smile.


But it’s no matter to Jackson. The reason she makes her way to Marcin Bowl every Tuesday morning is to exercise, socialize and spend some time with her friends.


Started decades ago by the Sarnia-Lambton chapter of the White Cane Club, the weekly bowling social connects community members with low vision or no vision with one another for some friendly frames of five-pin.


With volunteers picking them up at their door, taking them to the bowling alley and lending a hand when needed, people with visual impairments can re-connect with friends while getting two hours of exercise. And on the last Tuesday of the month, bowlers can stick around to enjoy a free lunch courtesy of the White Cane Club.


“It was started a long time ago to get people with low vision or people who are blind out of the house, to give them a bit of exercise and a place to socialize,” Jackson said.


“It’s been very successful, it’s open to everyone and we just charge a nominal fee of $2 so that people have something invested in it.”

Carl Hnatyshyn/Sarnia This WeekWhite Cane past president Sophie Jackson has been coming to the organization’s weekly bowling event for decades.

Bowlers can put as much or as little effort into the sport as they want to, Jackson said. The main thing is to enjoy those few hours in a setting outside their home.


“It’s all about friendship,” Jackson said. “We talk to people and they socialize with us. A lot of people (with visual impairments) don’t get out a lot so they don’t get to meet a lot of people.


“And if anybody questions the exercise, just have them come out one morning and they’ll see how hard it can be,” she added with a laugh.


For bowlers Darcy Burnard, 40, and Michelle Gibbs, 31, the weekly event offers a chance to hobnob with friends while working on their bowling form.


“I’ve been blind since birth so I’ve always known about the White Cane Club and I’ve always been familiar with the bowling league,” Burnard said. “Sophie asked me to join back in 2015, so I gave it a try and I’ve been here ever since.


“It’s great to hang out with people and have fun, it’s bowling so it’s not like it’s crazy amount of exercise and we’re not super competitive,” he added. “It’s just a fun morning.”


Gibbs said since she started attending the weekly meetings four years ago – when she lost her vision – she has gained a lot of friends.


“You get to know more people and you get to talk to the community of visually impaired and blind people, which is nice because you don’t really get the chance to talk to those people on a regular, day-to-day basis,” she said.


“It’s been amazing, it’s a lot of fun and we all enjoy it.”


For 44-year-old Barry Burnison, the best part of his Tuesday is spending time with his newfound bowling buddies.


“Everyone here is friendly. I love the atmosphere here and the people are so friendly,” he said “Beforehand I never went out, so this is a great thing for me.”


For more information about the Sarnia-Lambton White Cane Club’s weekly bowling event at Marcin Bowl, phone 519-337-3606.