This article is included in our Spring 2022 newsletter. Click here to view the entire newsletter!
Encouragement can inspire
The locale today is Goshen Lanes, a quiet, ten-lane bowling alley with a small town feel located in Mechanicsburg, Ohio. It’s a weekly destination that everyone in the Union County On The Go (OTG) group looks forward to.
They arrive just after the alley opens on a Monday morning; they’ve got the whole place to themselves. Smiles and laughter spring from Kenyon, Jorge, Diego, and Alexa as they set up shop in Lane 9, ready for two games of bowling fun.
“They really enjoy coming here,” said Ashley Horch, a Direct Support Professional (DSP) for Open Door in Union County, and today’s leader for the OTG group.
Ashley is a people person: she enjoys spending time with the individuals she supports and getting to know them on a personal level.
She’s been with Open Door for almost two years, regularly exploring central Ohio with the OTG group. Recently, she was given a role with more leadership responsibilities. “She earned that,” said Victoria Davis, Program Director of Open Door in Union County. “She is an amazing person, and we appreciate her so much.”
The big decision for each member of the group today: picking out their bowling balls. The four individuals are filled with energy and excitement as they scope out their options: it’s hard to find one that’s not too heavy, not too light, and of course—the right color. Once that’s been settled, it’s time to knock down some pins.
When they first started coming to Goshen Lanes, Pam, another regular in the group who wasn’t attending today, wanted to sit and not bowl with the others in the group. “That’s your choice,” Ashley recalls saying. “But I guarantee if you try it, you’ll really like it.”
After hearing those positive words, Pam decided to play one game—and loved it. Now she bowls two games every time she attends. Sometimes it just takes a little encouragement.
The OTG group chooses where they want to go every week, and they have a wide variety of interests: shopping, the zoo, theater, county fairs, and more. But bowling has a special place in their hearts. “They’d come here three times a week if we didn’t have so many other cool things to do!” Ashley says.
Ashley did a lot of volunteering growing up, including at the senior center in Marysville run by her grandma. She’s developed a wealth of professional experience working in a nursing home setting and with a different adult day program in Union County.
When the pandemic hit, that other day program closed. Through a relative, she met Victoria Davis and found out about available positions at Open Door.
Now, Ashley’s job involves helping new Open Door employees in Union County to inspire life journeys.
One skill she looks for in a Direct Support Professional (DSP) is adaptability. Many individuals like things done a certain way—and that can be difficult for some. DSPs need to have the ability to adapt to the change quickly and calmly.
“I love Open Door. I love the people, my co-workers, everyone. It kind of feels like family to me,” Ashley says.
When she gets together with employees from other areas of the company, like Park West or our corporate team, it feels like everyone knows each other even though they don’t all work beside each other every day.
“And I really enjoy these guys,” she says turning towards the group as they watch Kenyon step up to bowl.
It’s a strike, and his arms shoot up in celebration!
People at Goshen Lanes are very welcoming of the group. The staff are on a first name basis with the individuals and treat them with the same hospitality as every other customer.
Sometimes, the OTG group will interact with other groups of individuals with disabilities who come to bowling alley on the same day. That’s what gets Ashley excited about OTG: it opens up experiences in the community for folks to experiment, learn new things, and grow in a variety of ways.
Some OTG folks passed out homemade holiday cards to local businesses last year, an experience that was rewarding for both the individuals and those receiving the cards.
Jorge, repping his Union County Cougars bowling league shirt, has a strong right arm and the whole group enjoys watching the pins come crashing down when he’s in the lane.
Alexa beams as she takes her turn. After a less than ideal roll, Ashley interjects, “You’re doing good, Alexa! You’re almost up there with Jorge!” Alexa glances at the scoreboard and nods.
The group isn’t all about winning and losing, just having fun. “Good job!” is a regular refrain as each bowler takes their turn. The positivity and encouragement are palpable, and Ashley’s energy is clearly rubbing off on each member of the group as they continue to loosen up for their second game.
Diego giggles with glee as Ashley chats with him between frames. The individuals celebrate each other’s company and delight in supporting each other. They make bowling look like a team sport.
Diego has been especially helpful on previous bowling trips with an individual in a wheelchair. He gets the ramp out, pulls it up into place, and sets up the ball so everything is ready for them to bowl.
Now it’s lunchtime. Everyone has their food of choice. Kenyon, being new to the group, is mesmerized by Jorge’s shoes—size 16.
Jorge is in his last week with the program, which makes this particular event bittersweet for Ashley. “You build that relationship, and you get so attached to them,” she says. While on one level it’s sad, it’s also exciting for Ashley to watch individuals go down new and exciting paths.
It’s all a part of their journey.
“This is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had,” she says. “It’s fun—we have fun! There’s not a day where I don’t go home and tell my friends and my kids about how much fun I had.”