PORTAGE | Cheers and shouts went up as the bowling pins fell down Sunday at Camelot Lanes in Portage.
But the 240 bowlers weren't there just for fun. They were also on a mission: Raise money for the Portage Township YMCA's scholarship fund.
“It's a way to get the entire community together,” said Dave Kasarda, executive director of the Portage YMCA.
The 24th annual bowl-a-thon hoped to net $25,000 to provide scholarships for children and families with financial need, said Amber Alexander, senior program director with the Y.
“This is the public kickoff to our annual support campaign,” said Alexander, who sported a yellow hard hat and brown T-shirt with the slogan, “We build people one pin at a time.”
The “We Build People” campaign runs through Memorial Day and has a goal of $70,500. More than $31,000 already has been raised. In 2012, the Portage YMCA provided more than $160,000 in scholarships, Alexander said.
Many of the bowlers were part of teams representing about 15 businesses and organizations, such as Horizon Bank, Kohl's, St. Mary's Medical Center, the Portage mayor's office and churches.
Trevor Talmage, with the Real Life Community Church in Portage, said his church has participated in the bowl-a-thon for about seven years.
“The Y's and our missions align very closely,” Talmage said. “We want to serve in our community to help build strong families and kids, and we want to help break the cycle of poverty in Portage and bring hope.”
Mike Sarver was among two teams of bowlers with Horizon Bank. The teams expected to raise between $500 and $600 in pledges this year, he said. Sarver has participated in the bowl-a-thon every year since it began.
“Just to know that we're making a difference in the community brings me back every year,” he said.
Portage resident Beth West knows firsthand the difference the money raised makes in a person's life.
A single mother, she relies on scholarships to help pay for before- and after-school programs at the Y for her children.
She brought Mackenzie, 12; Gage, 8; and Rayden, 6, to the bowling alley to support the event.
“I'm just here to give back because the YMCA has helped me with so much,” West said. “I'm very grateful.”