Marquette student volunteers at special Olympics bowling tournament

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Seter

The bowler is Robert Rappe of Waunakee. Rappe, 41 years old, competed in the Wisconsin Special Olympics Southern State Fall Tournament Bowling Competition at AMF Bowlero Lanes in Wauwatosa last Saturday. He didn’t bowl a strike on that final frame, but he helped his team earn a silver medal with scores of 78, 83 and 112.

According to its website, Special Olympics Wisconsin serves almost 10,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities statewide. Five hundred  athletes, 150 coaches and 300 volunteers participated in the Southern State Fall Tournament, which included bowling and volleyball. About 10 Marquette students volunteered.

Jimmy Seter, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, was one of those volunteers and was assigned to Rappe’s group. This was Seter’s third time volunteering with the Special Olympics.

“The passion of the kids keeps me coming back,” Seter said. “They have such a spirit within them. That drives me and motivates me. Watching the parents and the coaches who are watching their children compete, it really is amazing. A lot of times there is an idea with community service that one person is helping another person, but really it’s a building of a relationship.”

This was Rappe’s first year competing in the bowling event, and he said he had a lot of fun. After every spare or strike, Rappe performed a signature celebration borrowed from one of his favorite athletes – Aaron Rodgers.

“It’s the double check belt,” Rappe said. “When Aaron Rogers throws a touchdown pass, he does it.”

“He did really well,” said Roberta Rappe, Robert’s mother. “I was very proud of him. He had great coaches, and his partner did really well, too.”

Carol Theo, also from Waunakee, is a volunteer coach for Rappe and his teammates. Her other team placed first in the division.

“We practiced weekly since September at a bowling alley in Waunakee,” Theo said. “Now we’ve got nationals to get ready for.”

During his time volunteering, Seter said he was inspired by Rappe’s perseverance.

“Robert had been kind of struggling all day,” Seter said. “Watching him keep at it, building off the motivation from the volunteers, from the coaches, from his teammates. By that third game, he had gotten the highest score out of the entire group.”

Seter was impressed by more than just Rappe’s bowling.

“Robert is just an amazing individual,” Seter said. “He sat down with me after and spoke with me for a few minutes. He personally thanked me for coming out and volunteering, which he didn’t have to do. This has been an amazing experience. He and his whole team were amazing people.”

Looking to the future, Seter said he plans to volunteer with the Special Olympics again.

“The big thing is not only for me to come back, but to get as many people as possible to come,” Seter said. “Who knows what could happen with even more volunteers?”