Bowlers to Veterans Link (BVL) is bowling’s oldest charity and has raised more than $53 million since 1942. Money raised helps fund recreation and therapy programs that address the emotional and physical needs of veterans and active-duty military. “Our goal is to help our veterans transition back to civilian life and live happy and healthy lives. Mostly, we want to put a smile on their faces. Give them something to look forward to instead of doctor appointments, pain and feeling lost,” said Mary Harrar, Executive Director of BVL.
Fundraising events and donations from thousands of bowling associations, bowling centers, industry partners, and bowlers throughout the U.S. help fund the efforts of BVL. Besides being incredibly rewarding, raising money for soldier and veteran outreach is easier than you think.
CREATIVE FUNDRAISERS FOR BVL SHARE THE SECRETS OF THEIR SUCCESS
As part of IBI’s annual salute to veterans and BVL, we asked several successful BVL fundraisers to share their stories about how they have operated successful campaigns. These folks used a creative approach to host successful fundraisers, build excitement in their community, and raise needed funds. We hope their stories will inspire industry colleagues across the country to do the same.
WORKING TOGETHER PAYS BIG DIVIDENDS – A NEW JERSEY SUCCESS!
Retired pro shop owner Tony Norcia has run Pro-Am tournaments to support BVL for more than eight years. Most recently he has used Howell Lanes in Howell, NJ, where 200-300 people attend a typical tournament. Norcia says Howell Lanes co-owners Neil Feingold and Charlie Anderson give outstanding support by setting aside lanes, discounting lineage, and “helping us in any way they can.”
Norcia secures local tournament sponsors that are big supporters of veterans’ causes, providing t-shirts, and other support for the event. While in a typical year the Pro-Am tournament raises about$6,000, in 2022, Norcia teamed up with his local USBC chapter, the Monmouth County Bowling Association, and over doubled that amount!
As a nonprofit entity, Monmouth County Association holds a license that allows them
to operate 50/50 raffles. “Now the association presents the tournament. They have the license for the state so they’re the ones that actually are in charge of that. That’s why last year we grossed $12,500,” explains Norcia.
Bob Rogers, president of the Monmouth County USBC chapter, says the group historically runs seven or eight tournaments a year of its own, raising around $4,500 in total from 50/50 raffles. When he joined the board, he suggested adding a bowling ball raffle. “I knew so many people in the industry, I was getting five, six, and seven balls donated. We would sell raffle tickets at $5 apiece, on an average of about a thousand tickets. So, we doubled our BVL donation from $4,500 to almost $10,000.”
Rogers praises the tireless efforts of the 25 directors in the association. “They all take a pack of tickets to their leagues to sell them. It’s a group effort from the whole county,” he says. “The directors are very dedicated, and the bowlers are very generous.”
The partnership with Norcia’s tournament boosted the total money raised for BVL by Monmouth County bowlers to more than $22,000 in 2022. “Before we were in the top 10 in the country raising money for BVL,” says Rogers. “When we married up with Tony, it took Monmouth County to second place for the most amount of money raised in the country. We only lost to Greater Dallas, which is a much bigger organization.” BVL executive director Mary Harrar calls the New Jersey alliance a perfect story about bowling associations and bowling centers working together.
ONE CALL GOT THE BALL ROLLING
Pat Allen, the owner of Conway Family Bowl in Conway, AK, is from a military family and spent his early years living on the local air force base. In 2022 he held his first BVL fundraiser, setting what he thought was “a pretty lofty goal at $10,000.” The event was a big success and they ended up raising over $12,000.
Allen’s approach was quite creative. He sold lane sponsorships for $300 apiece, selling out his 24 lanes. Some sponsors brought their teams to the tournament, while others asked him to bring veterans to bowl. Allen contacted the local recruiting offices and arranged for teams from the Army and Navy to compete.
Allen contacted Little Rock’s TV stations, which cover the entire state, to publicize the event. At first, he didn’t get any callbacks but then received a voicemail from Amy Sullivan, the news director at KATV, the ABC affiliate in Little Rock. Sullivan was a veteran who had run the bowling center at the base where she served in Japan. “She was excited and got me the names I needed for the other television stations,” says Allen. That one call got the ball rolling and three local stations covered the event. One of them, KTHV, even selected Conway Bowl for its veterans-focused “Heroes of the Month” segment. “As a result of the TV coverage, a local law firm donated a thousand dollars to BVL,” says Allen, “and we got a lot of recognition for what we do.”
This year Allen plans to run tournaments at Conway Bowl and his other center, Allfam Lanes, which is located just outside Little Rock Air Force Base. With the potential of running two shifts of bowlers, he’s setting his fundraising goal at $15,000. From the way Allen can build excitement for his events and spread the news, we’re confident he’ll make that goal, and maybe even surpass it. IBI would like to thank these dynamic fundraisers for sharing their stories with our readers. It is our hope, and theirs, that it inspires other industry friends to help BVL support our active duty and veterans in an even bigger, more consistent way.
What Does BVL Do With Money Raised?
While there are many ways BVL touches lives, IBI has highlighted a few of our favorites.
1. A popular new program from BVL harnesses the power of virtual reality to open a wide range of experiences for veterans. MyndVR is a Dallas-based company that has designed a VR headset to help PTSD in veterans. These VR headsets can take someone almost anywhere he or she wants to go. Imagine not being able to leave a facility, or, even worse, confined to a bed, and through the magic of VR they can climb the Eiffel Tower or land a plane on the deck of an aircraft carrier or go to a Broadway play or visit their childhood home. BVL purchases these headsets and delivers them to VA hospitals.
2. Equestrian Therapy allows veterans to help take care of horses and teaches them basic skills. For our paralyzed veterans they get the chance to “walk” again!
3. Bowling outings can help veterans with PTSD develop tools to help them when they hear sounds that remind them of combat, like the ball hitting the lane or the pins crashing. Our sport is used as immersion therapy!