Jack Puckhaber spun round and round after bowling a strike to begin his second game. He captivated everyone in his vicinity with his smile, dances and cheerful attitude.
The Plainedge senior is a part of the Career and Employment Options (C.E.O) at school, which helps students in special education with school and transitioning to earning a job.
Puckhaber, in his second year on the varsity bowling squad, rolled a 170 in Game 1 of a 429 series and helped Plainedge to an 8-3 win over Wantagh late last month at Levittown Lanes.
“I’m happy to be a part of a team,” Puckhaber said. “[My favorite part of the team is] my friends.”
Puckhaber is outgoing, making sure to say hello and goodbye to everyone on Plainedge and Wantagh, all the while looking back to his mom for approval on his game.
His mom, Kathleen Puckhaber, also was a bowler, so she encouraged her son to get involved. He first joined a team as a 9-year-old and has since fallen in love with the sport.
For Kathleen, it’s been relieving to see how accepting everyone has been of Jack since joining the squad.
“I was nervous that the other kids and even the parents [would ask] ‘why is he on the team?’” Kathleen said. “But then when everyone gets to know him a little bit, everyone is excited.”
Christine Aiello, Jack’s teaching aid at Plainedge, is with the C.E.O. students throughout classes and work. She calls him a social butterfly because he has many friends and likes to have fun, to which Jack enthusiastically agreed, “I sure do.”
He’s always looking to share a laugh. Whether it’s telling a joke or pulling a prank, Jack wants to make the most out of all situations.
“He is charismatic, so friendly,” Aiello said. “He needs approval, but he loves being part of the team. He has many, many friends at school. If he walks down the hallway with you, he’s saying hello to everybody, and they all know who he is.”
When Jack sees Plainedge boys bowling head coach Anthony Giovanelli in the hall, he tells Giovanelli how excited he is to bowl later and makes sure his coach will be at practice, too.
“The kids want [Jack] around,” Giovanelli said. “They want him to bowl varsity. They want to bowl on his [lane] team. It’s hilarious, [Jack’s] like ‘I’m the best bowler' … Everyone is just drawn to him, even the other coach. They’re like ‘this kid’s smile is the best.’”
Kathleen said she’s her son’s biggest critic in addition to being a significant supporter. She pushes him to be the best for himself and the team.
It’s stressful at times for the two of them, especially if Jack doesn’t play to his high standards. But oftentimes, he’s exuding joy in the bowling alley.
Jack bowls three times a week. He also works at Outback Steakhouse through C.E.O. with his classmates.
His mom couldn’t be more proud.
“When he does things, it almost brings tears to my eyes,” Kathleen said. “I never thought that he would be that accepted. I’m so happy for him.”