‘Something meaningful to do': New Fairfield mini golf course helping autistic son, mother

Terry Zornow, left, of Fairfield, helps her son, Bobby Zornow, 25, fill out the mini golf score card on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, at the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League on Groh Lane in Fairfield. Bobby is autistic. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

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Terry Zornow, left, of Fairfield, helps her son, Bobby Zornow, 25, fill out the mini golf score card on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, at the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League on Groh Lane in Fairfield. Bobby is autistic. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

FAIRFIELD — Terry Zornow takes her son, Bobby, to play miniature golf at the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League complex two to three times a week.

She does this instead of sending her 25-year-old autistic son — who she calls “a man of few words” — to a daytime adult rehabilitation facility for those who are developmentally disabled because she’s a self-described “worry wart.”

She’s worried because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. There is no “back-up” if she or her husband, Harry, becomes sick with the COVID-19 virus.

“I’m hesitant,” Terry said, 61, of Fairfield. “We can’t afford for anyone to get ill ... . That’s the way it is.”

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For the past few months, Terry and Bobby play the 18-hole miniature golf course at the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Field on Groh Lane.

“It gives him something meaningful to do during the day,” said Terry, who retired in 2017 from Fairfield City Schools after 31 years of teaching.

When COVID-19 shut down daytime rehabilitation programs, Terry said there weren’t many options for Bobby. They participate in the Butler County Challenger League, and since the Special Olympics is canceled for 2020, Bobby and Terry practice bocce ball at the Miracle League.

They also throw a frisbee at the park and spend time playing board games in addition to the occupational therapy work they do at home.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced in June the start of reopening day camps and residential camps for those who are developmentally disabled. Terry’s not certain when she and her husband, Harry, will be comfortable sending their son back to adult day rehabilitation facilities.

Since taking up miniature golf, Terry has seen improvements with Bobby, including his hand-to-eye coordination, balance and fine motor skills, and he’s better at taking turns since playing at the handicapped-accessible designed course.

“(The miniature golf course) is something he can independently,” she said. “We have fun together and we really enjoy it.”

But the Zornows didn’t start playing at the miniature golf course as soon as it opened, Terry said. Kim Nuxhall, the volunteer CEO at the Miracle League, invited them to play.

“Originally, the course was built for our Miracle League kids (and adults) here, but why not,” said Nuxhall. “Our course should be open to anyone.”

Terry said she’s “really grateful” for the Miracle League and says it’s “a gift” that is “meaningful.”

Nuxhall said this past Saturday, which was the start of the fall youth league at the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League, “was just the perfect day.” Not only were both fields filled with young baseball players, the miniature golf was busy.

“It’s been great,” Nuxhall said. “The neatest thing about this from day one is when parents come up to you in tears thanking us for what we’ve created. It’s really humbling.”

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