Kadena Special Olympian finds bowling is up his alley
June 26, 2006
His dream is to go pro.
Typical of many high school seniors, sure, but Daymond J. Lamarr — D.J. — wants to be a professional bowler. That’s not something you hear every day.
The 17-year-old, who faces a few learning challenges, recently put his skills to the test at the Kadena Special Olympics.
The highly popular weeklong event — it drew almost 1,000 participants in this, its seventh year — kicked off with Lamarr’s specialty on June 18 at the Seaside Bowl in Mihama, Okinawa.
He took first place in his group of special-needs athletes but he simply shrugged his shoulders at the win. He bowled a 178 and a 159.
“Oh, man, that was a horrible game,” he groaned.
It was a difficulty so many athletes face: Lamarr just couldn’t match his mostly terrific performances from practice, where he has bowled a few 300 games — perfect scores.
But the friendly and talkative teenager, who high-fived everyone after almost every bowl, didn’t let the disappointment dampen his mood. He bounced around among the athletes laughing and having a good time.
“One of his strengths is his sociability,” said his father, Daymond Lamarr. Both he and the boy’s mother, Diane Lamarr, are Department of Defense Dependents elementary school teachers.
The games continued Saturday on the fields of Kadena High School at Kadena Air Base.
Lamarr was one of three American athletes out of the total 933 who registered for this year’s games, according to Chip Steitz, who is on the organizing committee. The rest were Japanese.
The event, which is for those with mental disabilities, brings together the Okinawan and American communities; for the day, any friction that might exist over the U.S. military presence on the island was not in evidence.
Special Olympics is funded with private contributions from local municipalities, fundraisers and even $453 from a group of young girls who sold lemonade, Steitz said. About $45,000 was raised since January.
“Without a doubt, this is the one single event that does more for the community relations aspect than anything else Americans do on the island,” said Air Force Col. Max Kirschbaum, director of the Kadena Special Olympics.
Lamarr started the day with an honor. He was chosen to carry the official Special Olympics banner during the opening ceremony. Like a typical teenager, he acted as if he wasn’t all that impressed — but he did appear to get a kick out of joining the other athletes in releasing red balloons in unison.
Lamarr’s only event for Saturday was basketball. His father also tried to get him to run in a few races but he wasn’t having it.
“I did that last year, Dad,” he said emphatically. “"And I would just beat everyone anyway.”
So it would be just shooting baskets in the individual skills competition.
After hours in the heat and swishing quite a few three-pointers to the cheers of some of the thousands of volunteers and spectators at the event, Lamarr smiled as Air Force Col. Al Klein draped around the youth’s neck one of the medals given all participants. Then Lamarr was ready to go home.
Or maybe to the cool, dim bowling alley.