By Steve Robinson | September 9, 2019 - 1:42 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

It has been a couple years since I looked to see if there were any teens who were budding bocce players. Regular readers will recall then my finding the team of Victoria Mendez-Duke, a sixth grader at Kingsley Junior High School at the time and her teammate and friend of her parents, Carlo Robustelli. The unusual duo made it to the quarterfinals before being sent packing.

But bocce is a game families can get interested and involved in and because they say they like doing things together as a family, that is how I found Adrian and Nicole Wesley and their two sons, Oliver, a 7th grader at Parkside Junior High School, and Conrad, a sophomore at Normal Community West High School.

The Wesleys had never played the game before, Nicole Wesley admitted. They saw the event being promoted and thought it would be a fun way to spend an afternoon. There also was the social aspect of the event for the family – getting out amongst the community and having the chance to meet others.

Nicole said the family came to the first event in 2017 and then bought a bocce set to play at home. For purposes of this year’s event, Nicole and Conrad teamed up while Adrian and Oliver joined forces. Oliver said he has also had friends his age who play who have helped advance his knowledge of the game. Conrad added he remembers boning up on the rules by watching a YouTube video or two.

Teams which rack up two losses during games, which ran roughly 20 minutes each in this format, basically would keep a team from advancing in the round robin format. While Nicole and Conrad’s efforts sustained those two losses quickly, Adrian and Oliver managed to hold their own against a variety of opponents, including winning their second game against Bonita Howard of Normal and her son, Lane, a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia. That match went into overtime, tied at 7-all, but the Wesleys team won in overtime, 8-7, and they kept on winning, right until they got to the quarterfinals before being eliminated. Despite the loss, the Wesley family smiled throughout, having had a good time.

Oliver said he enjoys learning about Social Studies and Computer Skills and is giving some thought to trying out for the Track and Field team at PJHS. Conrad said he likes the aspect that this sport is something that one can do when age overtakes one’s ability to play more rigorous sports. Conrad would like to be either a college professor or researcher in physics when he joins the working world, he explained.

Even when they were behind in games, Adrian Wesley said, “The whole point to being out here was to have a good time. If we were not having a good time, we would not stay.” Sometimes, there is more to winning. And that is another lesson the Wesleys were hoping to see their boys take in during this experience.

Because space was limited on the grounds of Normandy Village, a total of 32 two-person teams could sign up to participate, paying $35 to participate, according to Dr. Bob Broad, co-owner of Normandy Village. Broad’s wife, Julie Hile, is the other co-owner of the sprawling property. Profits from the event were divided equally between Bloom Community School, an independent, private school serving families with children in kindergarten through eighth grade, and Mulberry School, a private, non-profit school in Normal, Broad said. Bloom Community School sits on the Normandy Village property.

The event took place at what is now known as Normandy Village, the former Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s School which the State shuttered in 1979. And the sponsorship of the event has changed, too. WGLT FM, the National Public Radio affiliate operated by Illinois State University handed off direction of the event to Normandy Village.

There were about 20 volunteers to assist with scoring and game judgement calls and a couple of entertainers, John Till, and Chris Corkery, providing background music. Broad said “it takes many, many hours to find sponsors and volunteers. It’s a lot of work and I love the school.” By trade, Broad teaches writing at Illinois State University.

The Wesley family’s two teams may not have won any grand prizes but to them, that wasn’t the important part of this day. It was spending time with their kids. And their boys having a good time with their folks. In that respect, the event was a win-win situation.

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