Basketball, baseball, paddle tennis—you want to play a sport with a ball, the Wilton Family Y is your place. Now there’s an opportunity to play another ball sport at the Wilton Y…bocce.

Funded by a grant, the Y recently completed construction of a regulation sized bocce court, situated directly behind one of the Little League baseball diamonds. Not only is it available for all members to use, but it’s also the home court for the Wilton Y’s Special Olympics Bocce team. Until now, they had been practicing at the home of a Y member who has a regulation bocce court, but now they’re able to play at the Y.

The court was built just in time, as bocce is a Special Olympics summer sport. In fact, it’s the only summer season sport for which the Wilton Y will field a team. Last year there were a limited number of courts available, so competition was limited to athletes above age 30; this year, bocce events will be held in Scalzi Park in Stamford with many more courts, so more people will be able to compete.

“Last year we had eight kids participate and only six of them competed. This year I think we’re going to have close to 15-20 people participate,” says Christina Foley, director of special needs at the Wilton Y. “We started practice on Monday, July 11 and tournament weekend is in September.” The team is being coached by Wilton Y members Frank Cafiero and Rob Genuario, who are avid bocce players and longtime supporters of the team.

special olympics bocce team
2015 Wilton Y’s Special Olympics Bocce team
bocce medal with coaches

Foley says that in addition to Special Olympic team use and practice, the bocce court will be something the Y’s special needs program participants and Roaring 20s members will use as well. “It’s a very social thing and it’s also something that they can all do.”

For a group like Roaring 20s, where focus on social skills is important, something like the bocce court is a great addition to the options for activities, Foley says.

“It’s not intimidating, for the little kids or older kids to play. I’m thrilled that we have it here now. This weekend for Roaring 20s, it was great because everybody played, everybody had fun and it was an outdoor thing and then we went swimming. It was the perfect afternoon.

The project was completed in conjunction with Kim Murphy, senior director of childcare and day camp program, and Aaron Britton, the camp director, because it’s something they want to integrate into the Y’s programming for school, after school and camp.

“Usually when we build something here we try to make sure it benefits the program as well as members. So the campers are members as well as on weekends families want to come in and use it, just as they can use our mini golf course and canoeing and boats and stuff. This is another perk that the members can use,” says Murphy.

In fact, if there is enough interest from members, Wilton Y officials would consider starting a bocce league, similar to the Y’s paddle tennis league.

“Absolutely. We usually go on what the interests of the members are. So if we have a group of members that are interested in starting a league, yes absolutely. I do know that there are families in town, they have an official bocce court at their house. I think more people play it than you think do,” says Foley.

If it’s as popular an activity as they hope, they’ll look to see if there’s any of the $5,000 grant left to possibly built a second court. They also have a wish list for additional needs, including a scoreboard and a smaller set of balls for kids and members with smaller hands.

Of course, there’s always one more need that Foley has for all the programs she runs, including Friends and Buddies, gymnastics, swimming, track, Roaring 20s and Sunday morning’s Basketball Outreach Program, BOP—volunteers.

“I am always looking for more volunteers, for volunteers who are compassionate and want to have fun with the individuals and who want to be committed. Who are there because they want to be there. I am always looking for that in all of the programs.”

bocce practice
bocce court