Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
The bowling lanes in Stratford will be busy throughout the month of April raising much needed funds to support the many kids waiting to be matched with a Big Brother or Sister or receive mentorship through a school-based program.
This year marks the 38th annual Bowl for Kids Sake campaign in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Stratford and District, and for a change of pace organizers have added a fun twist to the signature fundraiser for 2014.
The event’s theme is Mardi Gras, and participants are being encouraged to come dressed in bright coloured clothing with beads and masks.
“We’re turning the campaign into one big party,” Big Brothers Big Sisters Stratford executive director, Altiera Essensa, said with a big smile Tuesday morning as the agency kicked off the campaign alongside supporters at the Ontario Street Scotiabank branch.
There are currently 19 bowling events planned but more can be scheduled if needed. Participants make teams of four to six people and collect pledges (a minimum of $50 per person) and in return receive 90 minutes of free bowling at Mike’s Lanes in Stratford. There is pizza, pop, and plenty of games and prizes. Individuals receive ballots based on their fundraising totals for a chance to win one of the grand prizes, some of which include a Nintendo Wii U, a $200 Walmart gift card, Family Kiwi Kraze yogurt for the year, and an inflatable bouncy castle.
Organizers have set a target of roughly $80,000 for this year’s fundraiser, about as much as was raised last year. Big Brothers Big Sisters Stratford board chair, Richard Cook, said the money raised will represent about 40 per cent of the agency’s total operating budget for the year.
“It’s a major part (of our budget), especially as more (costs) get downloaded and there’s less funding,” he added.
And while in recent years the agency has been able to expand to accommodate more volunteer and mentorship opportunities, the need for additional support is still great. In 2013, the agency supported 293 children through one of its programs, and Essensa said the demand is always growing.
This year there are 42 boys and girls waiting for a Big Brother or Big Sister, and “more than we can count” who are waiting for one-on-one mentoring.
The Bowl for Kids Sake campaign will wrap up in early May with the teams of employees from Scotiabank hitting the lanes. The bank has been the title sponsor for 10 years, in that time raising over $170,000 for the agency’s ongoing support for families in Stratford, St. Marys, Mitchell, Shakespeare and the surrounding communities.
“It’s a great cause that everyone can get behind and have some fun with,” Scotiabank’s Don McNabb noted.
Big Brothers Big Sisters isn’t only for children from a low income or single parent homes, Essensa added. The money raised supports any child who could benefit from relationship built on friendship and trust.
“It really is a community that raises a child.” Essensa said. “And the more we can do for them now the more thy can do for us in the future.”