This story is part of a bi-weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to “build bridges” with those different from themselves. The Sparkt Bridges series is made possible with the support of UPMC.
Nobody wanted to bowl with Georgie O’Donnell.
It wasn’t because he was rude or belligerent – Georgie was just different from them. He has cerebral palsy, which drastically affects his movement. Georgie’s disabilities were the target of more than a few sideways glances and rude remarks, which caught the ire of his father, George O’Donnell Sr. “[People with disabilities] are just like you and I, they just want to have fun,” said O’Donnell.
To prove this point, O’Donnell started Friends to Friends, a nonprofit that brings children with disabilities together with children without disabilities through various sports activities in order to bring greater awareness through integration. Here is a look inside one of the main events they offer – bowling night:
Since its inception in 1995, Friends to Friends has expanded from just a handful of children to over 200 children (and family members) who participate in their events. Many of the children who were there at the beginning are still happily attending events, so perhaps it would be more accurate to describe them as “children of all ages.”
In addition to bowling, these friends get together for fishing trips and professional sporting events, like baseball and hockey. All of these events are entirely dependent on private contributions, so their growth over the years brings with it a bit of extra financial strain. “This year, I’ve had to cut back to once a month for bowling because we didn’t have the funding. I’ve refinanced my house 3 times,” says O’Donnell. “I don’t want to do it a fourth time.”
Despite this, Friends to Friends has endured for nearly 25 years; a testament to the goodwill of others. To find out how you can help this organization to ensure that it continues for another quarter century (and beyond), click here.
The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced
with the generous support of UPMC.
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