My name is Dave Ruckman and I am a lawn bowler with the Nanaimo Lawn Bowls Club in British Columbia. In 2010 I had a life changing experience that would This is my story.
At the age of 60, I had been a tradesman for over 30 years and considered a craftsman for the latter part of that time. My son worked with me and we planned that he would someday take over my business. On June 6, 2010, I awoke with pain in the back of my eyes and blurred vision. By the following day, the doctor informed me that my vision was gone and would not recover. I was diagnosed with a blood flow issue in my optic nerves, a stroke of the optic nerves essentially.
I was left with no central vision in my left eye and about 15 to 20 percent peripheral vision. In my right eye, there is 3 to 5 percent central vision. All this is overlaid with a condition called scotoma. It is similar to smashing a plate and then separating the pieces slightly. It appears as a grey veining throughout my sight. Chances of this happening to someone are 385.000 to 1. I always did like the role of being slightly different.
Walking was always something that was important to me, using it for exercise and often a means of meditation. On a walk in 2012, I met Mary and Stan. We got to talking and upon noticing my white cane they asked if trying lawn bowling would interest me. They were just stepping back from organizing and helping a local group of visually impaired lawn bowlers and had lots of experience to share. That spring we bumped into each other again and this time I took up their suggestion.
A gentleman by the name of Donn Sherry had now taken on the overall running of the visually impaired bowlers group that had been in existence at the Nanaimo Bowling Club since 1983. The club itself is now 96 years old. After a number of lessons, we managed to get something that resembled bowling. The first year I bowled exclusively with the other visually impaired bowlers. In the second year, through the good graces and much patience from the regular membership, I began bowling in some league sessions. As my bowling improved there were offers to bowl in open events at other clubs.
I was so struck by the sense of community that existed amongst the bowlers. It was and is a community that is most often welcoming and open to anyone who wants to deliver a bowl. I have also noticed that when folks come to a time in their lives and are no longer able to compete or bowl, they become associate members and remain with the club and with their longtime friends. This sense of community has played vital role in my bowls experience.
In 2014, with the help of a lot of folks, we managed to qualify for international play at an International Disability Bowls event in New Zealand. There was a core group in the club and one lady with marketing skills who rallied around us and miraculously in three months raised twenty thousand dollars for four of us to travel and compete. It still brings tears to my eyes, thinking that a group of people that I had only just met would take on that project and achieve their goal in such a short time. It is something they are still proud of, and rightfully so. While we did not win any medals, and I managed to win only one game (a mixed pairs event), I did manage to have a number of fairly close games and came away with a great learning experience. I also got a good idea of what level of ability was required to win at this kind of event. The other competitors were almost all long-term bowlers, with at least 10 to 25 years bowling experience.
At our club, as with any volunteer organization, we exist because of a lot of dedication from its members. I am fortunate that there are many jobs around the club that I can help with. From every Tuesday morning, setting up for the Vision Impaired club, to helping set up and cleaning for and after competitions. I also contribute to the greens keeping where possible. From bagging cut grass to running a wheelbarrow. It was not always that way. With familiarity of my surroundings, I am able to get around quite safely. Even with a disability, we need to challenge ourselves for sense of worth and achievement.
This is my personal story in regards to bowls. I will be forever grateful to a chance meeting while walking. I cannot say enough about the friendships that have developed at the club and district level. Each club has its own personality and yes, personalities. We are competitive, BUT, we are also all about the health and existence of our community. For any age, from 9 to yes, 104. From any ability or disability, in any way, beginner to national champions.
I am excited to be a part of the Bowls Canada Para Bowls Task Force and I look forward to contributing to making more opportunities for more people to discover this wonderful community of bowls.