Bumper bowling builds bonds for single-parent families

Monday, January 10, 2005

With the holidays over and the winter cold settling in, isolation and loneliness are likely to follow.

Determined to beat those feelings, a group of single parents and their children ventured to the Jackson Main Street Bowling Lanes Sunday. Most were new members of Parents Without Partners, yet they felt right at home among the crowd.

"I think an important thing about being a single parent is getting out and being social," said Ramona Marxer of Jackson, stressing that the children need to have fun in a safe environment. She and Darlene Daniel of Jackson joined PWP Friday.

"When you walk in, you instantly have friends because we're all single," said Daniel, who was a member before remarrying and returned after divorcing.

The international organization coordinates educational and recreational activities for children and their parents who are divorced, separated, widowed or never married. The central focus is to let the families know that they are not alone.

Eleven-year-old Krissi, Daniel's daughter, felt at ease when she played bumper bowling with other children ranging from 2 to 16 years old.

"I don't feel like a freak," she said. In fact, she said she connected with the younger children, assisting them when they needed help with tossing the balls.

Twelve-year-old Grace, Marxer's daughter, enjoyed the children's level of enthusiasm.

"They are outgoing," she said. "They don't hold back. They have fun and if they mess up, they just laugh about it and move on."

Six-year-old fraternal twins Alexandra and Autumn jumped up and down whenever they knocked over even one pin. They were less aware of why their mother, Kathy Dunaway of Cape Girardeau, brought them to bowl for their first time.

"I just like bowling," Autumn said, explaining why she was having fun.

Over time, the girls will realize that the other children understand what it is like to go through a divorce, said Dunaway, who joined PWP Thursday.

"It keeps us close like we already are," she said. "It's something we can afford in terms of activities."

PWP pays for the children's admission, which leaves only the parents to pay for themselves.

Sunday was the first activity that family activities coordinator Wini Golightly remembers playing host to entirely new members, one joining in December and three joining last week. The local chapter covers most of Southeast Missouri and has at least 90 members.

"We need the new members," she said, because many members leave after the children turn 18 or the parents get married. "We need the younger kids to keep things going."

jmetelski@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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