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Candlepins for cash – Fundraiser attracts 1,267 bowlers

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By Cindy Stiff

WINSTON-SALEM — By luring 1,267 people to a bowl-a-thon, Big Brothers Big Sisters Services beat its own records in bowlers, sponsors and pledges.

The event Feb. 19 was the 15th annual “Bowl for Kids Sake” organized by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Forsyth County.

The day of this year’s event, bowlers handed in $64,703, compared to $46,450 last year.

The secret?

“Lots of detail, let me tell you,” says Pat Fling, director of development and communications. “We start on the next one the day after we finish.”

A key to attracting lots of bowlers, she says, is recruiting team captains who then are responsible for enlisting four other bowlers.

Bret Grisard, the group’s executive director, says bowling turns into a team-building exercise for sponsoring companies.

“I don’t know they go into it thinking that,” he says, “but the reason we got to this number is we don’t lose a lot of people from the previous year. These people are not bowlers. They bowl once a year and they have a great time.”

Many of this year’s 253 teams were sponsored by corporations, such as BB&T, which assigned an employee to act as liaison with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Jason Triplett organized 32 teams from the bank.

At Sara Lee Hosiery, Dale Seagraves, a vice president, promised to join the bowlers if they formed at least six teams with 30 people.

He offered to do whatever they wanted him to do, thinking he’d be bowling or keeping score.

Instead, Seagraves wound up leading the national anthem to open the tournament as if it was a football game.

“I thought he’d say no, or hem and haw,” says Grisard, the executive director. “But he went to the microphone and made all six of the teams move in that direction. Everybody in the bowling alley put their hands on their hearts and joined in the singing.”

In addition to funds raised the day of the event, many pledges trickle in later. When all pledges were collected, last year’s bowl-a-thon raised $110,000

Each bowler is asked to raise at least $80 for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Some pledges are made per pin knocked down but most are lump sum amounts.

“Most people do a set amount,” Fling says. “Makes the math a lot easier.”

Even gutter-bowlers can play: Everyone is given a minimum score of 100. 

Each bowler also receives a t-shirt with the Big Brothers Big Sisters logo and a list of company sponsors. And anyone who raises $250 also gets a red sweatshirt with the organization logo and the sponsor list.

Krispy Kreme gave away doughnuts.

The top fundraiser wins a trip, although though the destination still hasn’t been determined.

For the past few years, it’s been won by the same person, Mike Brewer, a pharmacist at Novant Health and a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

He and his wife, Debby, have been mentors for the past eight years as part of the Big Couples Program.

Brewer raised $2,300.

Corporate sponsors who contribute $2,500 to the event are touted on banners at the bowling alley, Major League Lanes on Jonestown Road in Winston-Salem.

This year, corporate sponsors included Pepsi, BB&T, Integon, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Metro Information Services, the law firm of Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, Sara Lee Knit Products and L’eggs.

Another 57 companies — 17 more than last year — contributed $200 each to be lane sponsors. Each company had its name on a sign in front of a lane.

In the Winston-Salem area, 225 volunteers have been matched with youngsters, and there’s a waiting list of more than 100 children.

Another 120 “big buddies” are matched with youngsters at school.

In the Big Buddy Program, an adult meets with a child at school during the day for no more than hour, perhaps at lunchtime. Adults mentor children from single-parent families on a regular basis.

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