The Incredible Story of Avalon’s Vision Impaired Lawn Bowling Group
The Northern Beaches Vision Impaired Group is a peer support group that does exceptional work providing people with vision impairment the opportunity to keep connected, stay social and active in the local area. Back in 2005, members decided to extend the range of activities they provide to include lawn bowls. They reached out to Avalon Bowling Club who were more than willing to provide their venue and facilities, and from there the Vision Impaired Lawn Bowling Group was born.
Fast forward eighteen years and the Vision Impaired Lawn Bowling Group is still going strong. Open to people of all ages and abilities, participants meet at Avalon Bowlo every Tuesday morning and start their day with morning tea and the usual check-in to see how life is treating everyone. While brief, the morning tea gives participants the opportunity to bond over shared experiences of living with vision impairment, and the unique challenges that they can face. Of all the conversations taking place though, the most common by far is unsurprisingly lawn bowls. You can sense the excitement everyone has to get out on the greens, throw down some bowls and soak up some sun.
Sometimes the best way to understand the impact of certain activities is to hear from those who experience it first-hand. We spoke with some of the members from the Vision Impaired Lawn Bowling Group and asked them how being a part of the group has benefited their lives.
Vera joined the group a few years ago, having previously played bowls for many years at Mosman Bowling Club. She is a life member, as well as a former Club and District President. Upon losing her sight, Vera had to give the sport away until she joined the Vision Impaired Lawn Bowling Group.
“I don’t care how I play, I just love being here. I feel like I’m at home. I used to watch my dad bowl when I was a child, and I can’t help but think how proud he would be to see me bowling now.”
Bronwyn joined the group 5-6 years ago, and has been a regular attendee to the sessions at Avalon which have quickly become one of her favourite activities.
“It’s a great day out on the greens. I always enjoy the competitive aspect as well as the social parts of the day.”
Dean is the newest member of the group, and has been loving the challenges of learning a new sport.
“I’m no good at playing but I love it. It’s great to get out and meet people.”
David has been playing bowls for many years, and spent several seasons playing Grade 1 pennants. Joining the Vision Impaired Lawn Bowling Group has allowed David to continue participating in the sport he loves.
“I’ve only been here for 12 months and I’m enjoying it. I hope other people get the chance to participate, because it is so important to promote this aspect of the sport.”
The success of the Vision Impaired Lawn Bowling Group can be attributed to the dedication of several volunteers, in particular Maureen Eves. Maureen helped create the group back in 2005 and since then has been selflessly devoting her time, which includes travelling every Tuesday from the Central Coast to Avalon, to running sessions and promoting the group. Maureen has a personal connection to the cause, having seen her own father stop playing bowls due to macular degeneration. Maureen and her father recognised that with a little help from sighted bowlers, he could still participate and enjoy the sport. Setting up the group gave Maureen’s father and other vision impaired players the self-confidence they needed to continue playing bowls.
Maureen has been pivotal in boosting participation within the Vision Impaired Lawn Bowling Group, going out of her way to encourage people to get involved and simply give the sport a try. True to her humble nature, Maureen has also been quick to recognise the contributions of her fellow organisers. Brenda Allsopp has happily contributed her time to the group for several years knowing the impact it has on participants. “Life can become isolated (for people with vision impairment). Socialising is just as important as the competitive aspect of this group, which is why I enjoy being a part of it.” Similar sentiments are shared by fellow organiser Peter Ward, who has been coaching players and supporting the group for many years. Like Brenda, Maureen and all the organisers who selflessly give their time to the group, Peter is thrilled to see so many people benefit from the sessions.
What the Vision Impaired Lawn Bowling Group has shown is the accessibility of lawn bowls to people of all ages and abilities, and that the benefits of participation are equally physical and social. Working together with local bowling clubs like Avalon, the group has reinvigorated the lives of so many people, while also engaging clubs with the local community.
You can find more information on the Vision Impaired Lawn Bowling Group by visiting their website.
Above: Photos taken from the Vision Impaired Lawn Bowling Group session. Included in the gallery are photos of local Avalon coach Dennis Heath, who is currently coaching two students, Daniel and Indi, who have cerebral palsy. The initiative is just another way that the club is working with the local community.