WARRENTON, Ga. --- They waited eagerly to hear the results, some of them even calling out "what was my score?"
Every week, some residents of Warrenton Health and Rehabilitation Center gather in the lobby of the center for an on-going bowling tournament. The week of Christmas, the winner was Richard Cason, which gave him a new title.
"Richard Cason is the champion for the year. With five wins, he's won more games than anybody this year," said Marcia Harden, a nurse assistant who volunteers her time to bowl with the residents.
Approximately 10 residents compete every week. The winner of each week's game gets to keep a trophy in his or her room all week, and then gets to be the first bowler in the next week's tournament. Each December, Mrs. Harden tallies the scores for the year and declares the yearly champion. Sara Brooks won second place this year with four wins and Marjorie Allen -- last year's champion -- was third with three wins.
"I think it's a cool little program," Administrator Chette Kendrick said. "It's awesome that they fixed it so the residents could bowl and they really enjoy it. So, it's an awesome little thing."
Mrs. Harden began the bowling league at the health center in February 1991, and has visited the center almost every week since then. She joined the staff as a nurse assistant approximately two years ago, but continues to come during her free time to set up bowling.
The lobby is transformed into a bowling alley with one lane consisting of a long strip of carpet marked with arrows. Mrs. Harden sets up pins at the end of the lane. She then assists the bowlers at the other end as they place a regulation-sized rubber bowling ball on a free-standing chrome ramp and push it into rolling action.
The ramp was made by the late Johnny Smith, whose daughter, Susan Harwell, is the financial controller at the center. Ms. Harwell said her father owned a welding shop, and she told him that the residents tried bowling, but were having problems. She asked him if he could make something that would enable a person using a wheelchair to bowl.
"The beds here used to have chrome side rails, and he used those rails to make a ramp," Ms. Harwell said. "It worked really good and I think it's great that they still get so much use out of it."
Mrs. Harden has no trouble rounding up participants, as the elderly residents, most of them in wheelchairs, are already assembled in the lobby waiting for her when she arrives.
The residents take their game seriously, and are all smiles and cheers every time they get a spare or a strike. The trophy rights appear to be much-coveted.
Mrs. Harden said there is one lady who bowls every week, and after she bowls, she looks from her wheelchair up at Mrs. Harden and smiles really big, holding her hands out as if to say "ta-da!"
"And that makes it all worthwhile," Mrs. Harden said. "I just like to see them happy. That's why I come."