Camp Courageous opening something new, unique for campers

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MONTICELLO, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) - When you think of summer camp what comes to mind?

Campers at Camp Courageous try their hand at a brand new bowling facility. This may be the only camp-operating bowling alley in the U.S.

Maybe swimming, canoeing or even walks in the woods. But do you ever think of going bowling while at camp?

Strange as it may sound, that’s now possible at Camp Courageous located near Monticello with the completion of a two-lane bowling alley in a new pavilion facility at the camp for those with special needs.

Camp Courageous director Charlie Becker says bowling might seem at odd choice for a new camp activity. But it makes sense when you consider campers are at the facility in winter as well as summer.

“Having a year round facility, there are days when it’s extremely cold outside with snow or maybe rain. So this will be a great year round activity,” Becker said.

Camp Courageous has certainly grown over the years from a facility that began with slightly more than 200 campers the first year, 42 years ago, to a 200 acre site serving about 7,000 people a year now. And the camp is constantly adding new facilities.

But the idea of a small bowling alley, with professional lanes and equipment, had an unusual beginning.

Becker said years ago the camp began plans for a new man-made lake. Tom and Sonja Penaluna of Cedar Rapids purchased naming rights for the lake for $250,000 in memory of their son Todd who was a frequent camper at Camp Courageous. Todd Penaluna passed away about 20 years ago.

Jim and Pauline Durgin of Clinton paid the same amount for naming rights for a pavilion planned along with the lake project.

And as for the bowling connection, once those pavilion and lake plans were in motion Becker said camp counselors talking one day were kicking around some ideas to offer kids some new indoor activity to do once the new space opened. And the idea of a mini bowling alley in the pavilion basement was born.

On Thursday, some of the campers got a chance to try their hand at camp bowling while workers finished with the installation.

Amanda Garcia, a 3rd grader camping for the first time, was suitable impressed.

“I’ve never been to camp before and it was really exciting and I really like it—especially going bowling here. I really got excited,” she said.

But other camp participants pointed out the addition of bowling to the mix is more than just adding some fun. For Muscular Dystrophy Association campers last week, it could also be a form of therapy for those with very limited mobility.

Ali Maahs with the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Iowa, saw some of those benefits.

“Some of our kids use power chairs or manual chairs for mobility. This might be the first time they’ve ever gone bowling because it’s accessible. So I think that’s something that will make this exciting for our campers,” she said.

Becker said after workers finish the final installation, campers should begin bowling on a regular basis this week. And he said there was one final surprise after the camp decided to install a small bowling alley.

Family members who named the lake in memory of their son told the camp that Todd Penaluna’s favorite activity before his death was bowling. And the late Jim Durgin, the main sponsor of the pavilion, was an avid bowler who was elected to the bowling hall of fame in his community of Clinton.

Camp leaders say if both could see the result, they’d surely agree that camping and bowling go together.

Becker said he believes Camp Courageous could be the only camp in the U.S. operating an on-site bowling alley. The American Camp Association, the group that certifies camp operations, did some research. They couldn’t find any other camp with a bowling facility for campers.