One North Carolina Center Challenges Others To Raise Funds For BVL
Proprietor and bowling coach Dan Simril doesn’t think of himself as a community organizer. He says, “My main job is cheerleader,” when he describes the many successful fundraisers he has held for Bowlers to Veterans Link at his 24-lane Foxfire Lanes in Kannapolis, NC. Nevertheless, Simril is on a mission to support the USBC-affiliated veterans’ charity and to energize others to do the same.
Simril demonstrated his flair for fundraising at the Bowling Proprietors Association of the Carolinas and Georgia (BPACGA) conference in February 2022. Challenged to come up with an event to fit a tight time slot, Simril ran a one-hour tournament that raised $1,700 for BVL plus a matching contribution he arranged from BPCGA, for a grand total of $3,400.
“I was given a one-hour time frame and had eight lanes to work with,” says Simril. “So, I ran a quick tournament with fun rules for no-tap and low-ball. It sort of humbles the high average bowlers.” To level the playing field, contestants were limited to plastic bowling balls, like the Plastic Classic tournament he runs at Foxfire. “No high-powered equipment. We wanted to make sure that the hotshots didn't run away with it,” he says.
One innovative touch was the “complaint fee,” a fine levied on spectators who heckled bowlers during play. BPAA’s membership and education director Bart Burger, a North Carolina native, was the biggest contributor. “Bart literally stood behind my lane and complained about everything he could,” says Simril, “until he racked up $500 in complaint fees.”
Simril and his family have run Foxfire Lanes since 1986 and over the years they have had many successful fundraisers for the BVL. “We took up the banner because it's a great charity. They improve veteran's lives,” he says, praising BVL’s health, recreational, and other support services.
To make it a true community effort, Simril enlists some of his regular customers to promote the campaign. “I find some good talkers and I explain to them what BVL does and how the raffle-style promotion works. Those people go out there, talk to all the league bowlers and say [to them that] next week we’d like you to bring something for the raffle table.”
And boy do they! Simril says his league bowlers bring in items ranging from fancy cakes to new bicycles to season-long scholarships for youth bowlers. “Some of the bowlers get really creative and bring in items that are higher value than need to be on a raffle table; they'll bring in items that are worth a few hundred dollars,” says Simril.
The Foxfire community has raised increasing amounts of money over the last six years. “The first year we raised $3,000. The second year we raised $4,000; the next year, $5,000; the year after that $6,000.” Even in COVID-afflicted 2020, they managed to raise $3,000. This year they put on a real push and raised $7,240 — their highest total yet!
A key to Simril’s success was finding someone passionate about helping the cause. One of Simril’s good talkers is Star Kelly, a bowler whose first husband served two tours of duty in Vietnam. “When Dan told me it was about the veterans and helping enrich their lives, I said yes,” she says. During the three weeks of the annual campaign, Kelly goes lane to lane talking to every bowler and asks them to buy raffle tickets and donate prizes. She also coordinates the donations, runs the table raffles, sells tickets, and enlists others to help her with what’s become a bigger operation each year. “I just have a passion for it because I believe in it so much. I'm there every night at every league to recruit,” says Kelly.
Simril is especially proud of his center’s contributions because Kannapolis does not have a local VA facility or military base. “My center is not in a military town, but my bowlers understand the value of veterans and they are able to get on board with the BVL charity,” he says. “If my bowling center can have this kind of success with the charity, I don't see why others can't do just as well.”
Everyone at Foxfire Lanes encourages other centers to join the fun and see who can follow suit to raise money using their raffle based fundraising program. In fact, they welcome the competition to see who can outraise their efforts. It’s all for a worthy cause. Proprietors across the U.S.A - the challenge has been laid down.
For anyone interested in more information about this program, reach out to Dan at [email protected] for more information.
Note from IBI: Our hope is that this story will inspire other operators around the USA to take the IBI challenge and see who can raise funds for BVL through creative and unique efforts. Next July, we’ll feature centers that have raked in cash with their fundraising efforts. More details to come soon.