Bocce at Brookridge

Residents take part in traditional game

MARQUETTE — Sometimes a sporting activity doesn’t require strength or speed, just a little finesse.

That’s why bocce ball is a good activity for residents of Brookridge Heights Assisted Living & Memory Care, located at 1901 Division St.

The activity keeps the Brookridge folks who choose to play the game engaged with others.

Jennifer Huetter, Brookridge director of sales and marketing, said bocce ball is played several times a week and is mainly for its Memory Care residents.

“Physical ability is sometimes a little bit difficult for the participation with the Memory Care residents, and this is something where varying levels of ability can all be involved.

The orange pallino is the ball bocce players target at Brookridge Heights Assisted Living & Memory Care. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

“So, even if they’re in a wheelchair or they need help standing, it is something that we can all be involved in.”

Bocce ball basically involves players trying to throw their balls closer to the small target ball, called the pallino, than their opponents at the end of every set, with scores tallied.

Brian Gaudreau, Memory Care coordinator, has the patience and ability to lead the bocce ball sessions, which resemble indoor lawn bowling.

Everybody gets two throws in rotation.

“I try not to make it competitive but I also make sure that they know there’s a winner, whoever’s closest to the ball,” Gaudreau said.

There was at least one adaptation to the Italian game: the Brookridge pallino is orange instead of the traditional white so it’s easier for the residents to see.

The court is taped out for the players, who he said have a great time.

And it’s not like they have to heave their balls as they would a much heavier shot put.

“We really focus on skills, so this is a great physical engagement because they have to think about it,” Gaudreau said.

In fact, it’s a game of balance and focus.

“Believe it or not, these guys know the game well enough where they will actually play the strategy of it,” Gaudreau said.

So if somebody is the closest and a point is going to be scored, that strategy will come in handy.

“If course, it will take a suggestion from me to say, ‘All right, if I were you, I’d try to knock that green ball out of there because that one’s scoring points,'” Gaudreau said.

Of course, he offers the players encouragement, saying things like “Oooh, nice throw.”

A little competitive urging also is part of the game.

“You’re the only left that can beat that ball,” he told one woman.

However, the activity also has to be fun, even with the pressure of having to throw a ball closest to the pallino.

It’s enjoyable for player Beatrice Maussoto.

“It’s just sort of fun,” she said.

The games definitely are light-hearted and not taken too seriously.

“Of course, I spend a lot of a lot of time just giving them the raspberries and keeping it going, make them laugh,” Gaudreau said.

He also had praise for player Ray Legault.

“When he gets up there, he gets the classic stance,” Gaudreau said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing.”

For more information on Brookridge Heights, call 906-225-4488 or visit

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is