Matthew Paulson on his way to Special Olympics state bowling tournament

DOWNEY - Matthew Paulson has been a client at The Arc - Los Angeles and Orange Counties for 15 years and as far as he's concerned, he wouldn't have it any other way. From the employment services to adult education, Paulson says his life would be different today had it not been for the 57-year-old organization where he's now a part of the Community Integrated Training program.

Founded in 2010, CIT helps clients expand their horizons through social interaction and community involvement. For Paulson, social engagement means one thing: bowling.

"I'm going to state," exclaimed Paulson, who is part of a Special Olympics bowling league. "We have tournaments on the road in Torrance, Fountain Valley, and last October we hosted one at Del Rio Lanes in Downey."

This year, Paulson finished on top during a regional tournament in Covina and has been given a spot in the state tournaments in Sacramento. "There are different districts and they compete with the other districts," Paulson said. "They have first, second and third for individuals and teams...there are also special awards from past bowlers."

While bowling isn't an Olympic sport, it is considered to be among the most popular sport in the Special Olympics. It also proves beneficial since it ensures physical exercise, participation, and social integration at the same time.

Paulson, 38, says he has no problem getting two strikes in a row, but it's that third that proves challenging.

"I've got to stay focused and keep the ball where I want it so I can get strikes," he said. "I want three strikes in a row, a turkey. I'm still hunting for the trifecta."

Like many programs at The Arc, CIT gives clients like Paulson the opportunity to enjoy life and engage the community in new ways.

"I've known Matthew for a couple of years. He has this personality...he's not scared to try new things," said Maribel Cerna, who oversees the CIT program. "It's about experiencing life. Participants do things they wouldn't be able to do outside - hobbies to help them feel independent in themselves."

Administrators at The Arc are hopeful clients like Paulson inspire community members to participate in the annual Arc Walk for Independence, which supports children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Since 1997, the Arc Walk has raised funds and awareness for The Arc's various educational and occupational programs by inviting community members to walk either a one or three-mile route around Stonewood Center.

Starting at 8 a.m. this Saturday, registered walkers who donate $15 to The Arc will set out on the course, walking for independence.

Beginning at Acapulco Restaurant and Cantina, the 3-mile walk travels west on Firestone Boulevard to Lakewood Boulevard, up to Florence Avenue, around to Woodruff Avenue and back to Firestone. The Arc has seen its annual fundraising event grow from just 250 walkers in 1997 to nearly 4,000 last year.

Phillip Palmer of KABC Los Angeles will again serve as master of ceremonies this year.

Host sponsor Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, Tredway, Lumsdaine & Doyle, Coca-Cola, Wescom Credit Union, Century 21-My Real Estate Co., Penske Toyota of Downey, and Stonewood Center are just some of the dozens of families, companies, and organizations banding together to support the annual fundraiser.

Paulson, who plans to do the walk with his girlfriend Yvonne, encourages the community to support the walk, which helps hundreds of people every year.

"It's about being able to keep the programs going and having the community's support," he said. "Come and have a tour, see all the programs, and don't forget the walk."

********** Published: March 21, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 49

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