CALUMET CITY | Practice makes perfect.
And though Michael Gunn has yet to bowl his first perfect game, he'll have all summer to help him get locked on a 12-frame roll.
"The two free games are nice, but I usually pay for the third to make it a three-game series," said Michael, a 12-year-old Chicago resident who bowls in a Saturday morning/afternoon youth league at Castaways Bowl.
Michael, a left-handed bowler, has upped his average to 156 in part from taking advantage of the Kids Bowl Free program that Castaways first participated in last spring and summer.
The Calumet City "house" has set things up to do it again this year.
"The free games helped me practice making my ball curve ... or hook more," said Michael, who has been bowling since he was 5. "You can get more strikes when you do that."
The Kids Bowl Free program has well over 1,000 participating bowling centers from across the United States and Canada. Age-qualifying bowlers — 15 and under for Castaways — may sign up to bowl two free games a day, any day of the week, through Oct. 1. The program started April 1.
Last year, more than two million youth bowlers participated.
"It's a great way to keep kids active and off the streets during the summer," said Jeff Warren, co-owner of Castaways with Bill Slusarczyk.
"The gas prices are going up again ... the economy is still struggling," Warren said. "This can only help families out, especially those within walking distance from here."
Those signing up to the Kids Bowl Free website will be emailed free bowling coupons every week throughout the program's duration.
There are nearly 50 participating bowling centers in Illinois, including two in Chicago. Castaways is the only south suburbs center participating.
"And we're still the only bowling alley in Calumet City," Warren said of the center, which was established in 1950.