Bowling alley is hidden gem of Brockton VA campus – News – The Enterprise, Brockton, MA

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, 2018-06-20 12:15:00

A six-lane bowling alley has existed at the Brockton VA since the campus was constructed in the 1950s, according to staff there. Kenneth Taylor, an Army veteran, is now working through a residential VA program to help out other disabled vets living on the Brockton campus to spend more time at the bowling alley.

BROCKTON – For elderly and disabled veterans at the Brockton VA campus, Kenneth Taylor has time to spare.

Taylor has been working to bring life into the little known six-lane bowling alley on the first floor of Building 22 at the Brockton campus of the VA Boston Healthcare System. Taylor, a New York City native, has been living at the Brockton VA through the REACH rehabilitation program, which aims to help veterans at risk of homelessness. During his time there, Taylor opted to do compensated work therapy at the bowling alley, where he can now be seen regularly, setting up adaptive metal ramps and carrying bowling balls to the wheelchair users.

“I let them know they are not forgotten and they can come down and have some fun,” said Taylor, who joined the U.S. Army after high school and served from 1974 to 1983, spending time stationed in Germany and Panama. “They come down here and have a field day. I can’t get them out of here once they get in here. Once they get in here, the don’t want to leave.”

The bowling alley is available for all of the roughly 300 patients living at the Brockton VA, from the nursing home, to hospice, to rehabilitation, and the spinal cord injury unit, in addition to outpatients who come on campus for day programs.

Taylor said that he tries to encourage as many residential patients as possible to visit the bowling alley, wheeling in those who want to play and bringing them back once they are done. Sometimes they just need to be asked and their eyes light up, Taylor said.

“They enjoy coming down and just getting away from upstairs and the wards,” said Taylor, sporting a black beret and a white Adidas T-shirt. “It’s sort of an escape.”

Patrick Monaghan, 88, of Roslindale, who is at the Brockton VA for rehabilitation, used the bowling alley for the first time on Tuesday, when Taylor set him up with a Patriots-branded bowling ball and a metal ramp.

“It’s beautiful,” said Monaghan, in between frames. “For a newcomer, I’m okay. I also have a nice rig here. … I haven’t bowled that much before. Maybe years ago when I was younger. It’s very good.”

The bowling alley has existed at the Brockton VA since the campus was built in the 1950s, but it has undergone “a ton of repair and upkeep” since then, said Susan Rielly, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist, who’s been working there for 26 years. The last renovations took place in 2015, according to VA. The automated 10-pin bowling alley features a small seating area and a massive closet filled with bowling shoes.

The bowling alley is just one of many recreational activities offered to disabled veterans on campus, Rielly said, with other activities including air rifle shooting and adaptive golf.

“It’s very good for exercise, stress release, and staying active,” she said.

In addition to the more casual bowlers on campus, there are also 15 patients at the Brockton VA who plan to compete in bowling later this summer at the The National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Orlando, according to the VA Boston Healthcare System, which is sending a total of 21 bowlers from its Boston area facilities.

Rielly motioned to some of the plaques on the walls at the bowling alley, with pictures of some of the best disabled bowlers around, including Sam Penny. Penny’s plaque at the Brockton facility shows that he rolled at least four perfect games while there.

“It’s very memorable when they make 300,” Rielly said. “They really do enjoy it. It’s another outlet for them.”

Rielly said it’s nice seeing Taylor try to bring more disabled and elderly veterans down to the bowling alley.

“Ken has been doing great getting the guys in Building 4 and the other buildings come on down,” Rielly said. “Ken has been very, very good at advocating for the bowling alley. When he first came down, he said, ‘Where’s all the people? It’s just about getting more volunteers to say, ‘You want to go to the bowling alley? Let’s go.'”

For Taylor, who came to the Boston area via Pittsfield about four months ago, working with older veterans is a way to change his attitude and get his life back on track. Taylor said he used to work for VA in Manhattan and Fort Hamilton, and then retired on Social Security Disability benefits. Taylor said after hooking up with the VA and landing in Brockton, he feels “great” and put his life into a better perspective.

“I couldn’t turn nothing around without the vets,” Taylor said. “I have a lot of gratitude when I look and see what has happened. A lot of us weren’t fortunate enough to come back and live life like they normally would. … This is the opportunity I have to give back.”

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