Thanks to new grants and a partnership between Special Olympics Surry County, Surry County Parks and Recreation and Mount Airy Parks and Recreation, the game of bocce has come to the county.
Bocce is a ball sport similar to lawn bowling and shuffleboard which is closely related to a game that was played in ancient times. The sport is played by people of all ages and skill levels on a variety of playing surfaces.
Three bocce courts have been set up in the county, and a new Special Olympics bocce team is being formed.
Millie Hiatt, supervisor for Surry County Parks and Recreation, said Special Olympics received a materials grant to construct bocce courts earlier this year. Fisher River Park, Westwood Park, and Riverside Park each have bocce courts set up outside. Wooden posts in the grass mark the bocce playing areas. The court is set up between the volleyball courts and gazebo at Fisher River Park and near the playgrounds at Westwood and Riverside parks.
People do not need to sign up to use the courts, but they can reserve them. The courts will be used on a first come, first served basis. Bocce balls are loaned for free and can be picked up at the Fisher River Park office and Reeves Community Center. People also can play on the courts with their own sets of bocce balls.
“It’s another leisure activity for citizens ... It’s an activity that most people can participate in regardless of skill or athletic level,” said Darren Lewis, assistant director of Mount Airy Parks and Recreation.
Hiatt said, “It doesn’t require a lot of equipment.”
She said people have already begun utilizing the bocce court at Fisher River. Mount Airy received bocce sets and signs yesterday.
“If anybody likes bowling, I think you’ll like this,” said Hiatt. “We’re excited.”
Special Olympics also received a Law Enforcement Torch Run grant to start a bocce team in the county. Bocce can be played as a singles, doubles or team sport and is offered as a traditional or unified sport. This is the first year that Surry County will have a Special Olympics team for bocce. Qualifying teams will get to play in the State Special Olympics Tournament. Adding on another Special Olympics sport in the county will allow more athletes to compete at the state level, Hiatt pointed out.
There are 19 different sports that Special Olympics athletes can compete in. Michael Garguilo, Special Olympics director for the north Piedmont area, said a lot of the counties in North Carolina now have bocce teams.
“Bocce’s one of our largest growing sports,” he said.
Susan Carlisle of Mount Airy first saw the sport at a state competition several years ago.
“I thought this would be something fun to do in Surry County,” she said.
She will coach the new bocce team in the county. She has a brother with Down syndrome, and she enjoys seeing the joy that he gets out of playing bocce and other Special Olympics sports.
“The more things we have the more things they can do to stay active,” she said.
To play on the Special Olympics team, Special Olympics athletes must be at least 8 years of age. For more information about the Special Olympics team or the bocce courts, people can call Millie Hiatt at 401-8235.