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Blind Bowling League started among friends. 50 years later it's a tightknit community

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For 50 years, Denver's Crown Lane has hosted a Saturday get together where friends talk trash and knock down some pins. Colorado Public Radio's Kevin Beaty introduces us to the Colorado Blind Bowling Association.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOWLING BALL KNOCKING DOWN PINS)

KEVIN BEATY, BYLINE: Veronica Rodriguez, age 70, has short, gray hair and wears dark sunglasses and a wide grin. She's holding a heavy ball that's ready to be let loose.

VERONICA RODRIGUEZ: I'm following the rail, going up to where you throw your ball. And when I throw my ball I say, come on, come on, come on.

BEATY: Welcome to Crown Lanes in southwest Denver. Most Saturdays, Rodriguez plays here with the Colorado Blind Bowling Association.

RODRIGUEZ: That's it.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOWLING BALL KNOCKING DOWN PINS)

BEATY: She and a few friends got this started in the 1970s. They're about 35 strong now, with plenty of new faces. Marlene Kaiser, who co-founded the league, brought a lot of them in.

How did this come together?

MARLENE KAISER: I think it was because there was a few of us that were bored.

BEATY: Blind bowling is just bowling, except blind players use handrails built between the ball machine and the fault line to navigate to their lanes. Once they've thrown, sighted teammates fill them in on how many pins they've knocked down.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: You got the one, two, four, seven, nine. You have to hit it between the one and the nine.

BEATY: Sure, people are competitive here. But most people, like league president Paul Trujillo, just love to bowl.

PAUL TRUJILLO: It's in my family. It's in my blood.

BEATY: Trujillo remembers sitting on the sidelines as a kid when everyone else in his family hunted pins. There wasn't really a way for him to play.

TRUJILLO: And I'm thinking, man, I want to do this. I hope I can do this someday. And then, yeah, I found out about the league the summer I turned 19. I found out about the league through Marlene. I said, right on. I'm going to try to continue with what my family does. And I did it.

BEATY: In honoring his family, Trujillo found a second one. People have stuck around so long because a tight community has grown here. And they take care of each other, like when Rodriguez recently found out she has cancer.

Do you think that you'll be leaning on your friends here for emotional support as you're going through this?

RODRIGUEZ: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. They're really supportive already.

BEATY: These are special bonds, Kaiser says.

KAISER: Yeah, we're a big family, sure. Something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.

BEATY: Bonds forged in a bowling alley that have lasted half a century.

TRUJILLO: I did get it? Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Spare time.

BEATY: For NPR News, I'm Kevin Beaty in Denver.

(SOUNDBITE OF TORO Y MOI SONG, "NEW BEAT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kevin Beaty