Bowling brings autistic community together

Photo by Javon Ross Justin Foley, an employee of Beloved baths, bowls at Hanover Lanes during an event held for members of the autistic community.

MAPLEWOOD/SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The night was about bowling but it was more than that for members of the autistic community who got a chance to meet one another, share stories and possibly make friends.

The event at Hanover Lanes in East Hanover on March 13 was hosted by Pat Miller and Pam Foley, who founded Beloved Bath in 2014 after discovering that their autistic sons were more calm and centered after salt and lavender baths.
Beloved Baths sells bath related products and employs autistic people while providing vocational training opportunities. A percentage of the profits from every sale goes to autism education – specifically for vocational training.

“Getting to meet other people on varying degrees of the spectrum and see how everyone is personality-wise has been good so far,” said Amanda, recently hired at Beloved Bath.

“So far I have been able to connect with a few people and some coworkers. Discussing books and other interests that we share, I am looking forward to making connections with others around here.”

She hopes to progress in the company, meet other people and build her own future.

“It has been a seven-month process emailing the founders for a potential job opportunity, andbeing on the waiting list until they could accept new hires,” Amanda said. “Eventually I would like to build my own business and help others as well, similar to what Pat and Pam are doing.”

Mentors and volunteers who assisted members of the autistic community who had never bowled before said they enjoyed creating an inclusive space for individuals to feel represented and supported.

“I am really happy – it seems like everyone is enjoying themselves and I am having a great time,” Phillip Miller said. “I am trying to help out anyone who needs it, my brother John isbowling today, so I am just trying to lend a helping hand and be a positive impact.”

Miller, who also works at Beloved Baths, said he would like to help as many people with autism as possible.

“I want to help expand Beloved Baths as much as possible, hopefully to set an example for other states to employ individuals with autism, get them to engage in communities socially,” Miller said.

Hanover Lanes helped to sponsor the event by offering a discount so that members of the autistic community could enjoy their facilities, make friends and exhibit their newly developed bowling skills. Many individuals who would otherwise be hands-on were able to take a step back and watch their family members interact, be independent and have fun.

“The event was extremely successful based on the comments that we received from families who came out,” Foley said. “There were a lot of smiles on people’s faces, people were socializing, some people were nervous but ultimately happy that they came.”

Miller and Foley continue to show their commitment to helping people through events like this and their business, providing bath products, lotions, candles and other natural products that provide soothing comfort to members of the autistic community and to anyone looking for quality bath and home products.

“Events like this allow people to practice socializing in new spaces and to embrace new experiences,” Pam Miller said. “It also gives the opportunity for people who offer support to sometimes take a step back and see their family members engage independently and see how capable they are.”

Those who have been a part of Beloved Baths from the beginning speak to the growth of the company and are amazed by the events they hold and how they help to normalize and improve the lives of people in the autistic community.

“I love being a part of this business – my favorite part is seeing all of the opportunities that the employees are given and seeing their smiles every time they walk through the door,” said Alycia Pravada, a behavioral analyst who helps run the training program at Beloved Baths.

“I help with training the staff and developing programs for the kids to be successful,” Pravada
said. “I have a different rapport with every single employee, based on who they are and what they let me in to see and understand them.”
Pravada has learned a lot in her time working with the employees at Beloved Baths.

“I learn more from the employees than I could ever teach them,” Pravada said. “I can teach them the soft skills but they teach me so much more on how to be a better person.”
You can check out Beloved Baths here: