By Christian Barel
Special Olympics Southern California aims to create unity through sports, and that is what the organization has done for Jennifer Ali. Through Special Olympics she has gotten more involved by competing, and built long-lasting friendships while at it.
After a horrific car accident in 2003, Jennifer was welcomed by the Special Olympics community. The organization has led her to discover and grow her love of bocce ball. But nothing trumps her love of softball, which remains her favorite sport.
“I love softball,” said Jennifer, who is from Joshua Tree. “It’s the sport I enjoyed playing before my accident.”
She has tried other sports, like track and field, but bocce is what she started to excel at most. The sport brings more of a thrill and excitement when it comes to competing, she said.
Some of her accomplishments include winning a gold medal in bocce at the 2016 Summer Games as part of the Inland Empire Green Mojaves team.
She also created a bond with her fellow bocce players during competitions. She considers them her good friends and consistently visits and remains in touch with the players.
“It’s a really good relationship between me and the other players,” Jennifer said. “We all have each other’s numbers and talk about anything.”
Some of her favorite moments playing bocce are the times she gets to help the other players out. Even when she is not competing, she is in full support of her friends.
“Last year I couldn’t compete because of work,” Jennifer said. “But I went out there to support and help them out, especially when they get upset.”
This July, Jennifer looks forward to playing bocce at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle. She also is excited to meet new people and expand her ever-growing community of friends.
“It’s something new,” said Jennifer. “I’m excited to go against other people and to see other people as well.”
Today, Jennifer is currently on leave of absence caring for her 6-month-old baby, Elijah, who she calls her “little friend.” She will soon start her bocce training in Palm Springs, in preparation for the USA Games.