Bowling alleys and arts organizations are not usual partners, but AHA!, New Bedford’s monthly 2nd Thursday arts & culture night, tends to do things with a fresh, creative approach. Starting five years ago AHA! began its Bowl-for-Art event where teams representing galleries, museums, businesses and community members bring together pledges for AHA! and hold a fundraiser tournament at New Bedford’s Wonder Bowl. The event is unique and well loved by its participants.
Several weeks in advance, AHA! supporters form teams and start collecting pledges. Program Director Margie Butler notes, “We value the $5 pledge as much as the $50 pledge because it all adds up and each pledge shows appreciation for the work AHA! does.” Then, on the actual day, everything comes together with a high-spirited afternoon of bowling, pizza, cake, a silent auction and prizes. Teams go by creative names such as the National Park’s “Rescue Rangers,” Dyan Kieltyka’s “Just Us Girls” and ArtWorks! “Bowler and the Bowlettes,” who sport British bowling caps decorated with marshmallow Peeps! In the end it’s good fun and the event raises upwards of $8,000 which represents roughly 15% of AHA!’s annual budget. Event organizers were thrilled to highlight the amazing contribution of Bowl-for-Art’s top pledge raiser, New Bedford craftsman/designer George Saulnier who has been involved with AHA! from the start. Each year for the past five years Mr. Saulnier has collected the most pledges overall. This year he single-handedly brought in $1,458 from friends and AHA! supporters. Ms. Butler noted that Mr. Saulnier is obviously, “someone who understands the value of AHA! and goes the distance to help our project and our city.” AHA! thanked their top pledge raiser with a generous gift certificate from Freestone’s City Grille, an AHA! partner and also a Bowl-for-Art team participant. While the Bowl-for-Art tournament is casual, skilled bowlers and novices alike enjoy competing for prizes donated by local businesses such as Cardoza’s, Not Your Average Joe’s, Dorothy Cox Chocolates, Baker Books, The Standard-Times and Blockbuster Video.
This year’s high scoring team was “The Zoo Crew” from the Buttonwood Park Zoological Society and the high scoring individual bowler was Mike Laberge also of that team. The 18 and under top score went to 16 year old Dana Robert from one of four Whaling Museum teams. The winning youth team was Nathaniel Fuchs, Walker Fuchs, Casey Magee, and Alison Roney, all 10 years old, and Peter Perkins age 11 representing the Whaling Museum. The high scoring under 13 bowler was Darren Borges, age 10, with the ABC Disposal Service, Inc. team. Prizes are also given for team spirit and other fun categories including the Gutterball (low score/sportsmanship) and Twinkletoes (original form) awards. These prizes and the people who participate help make Bowl-for-Art a unique, animated event.
This year the event attracted many new teams including The Michael McGuire Gallery which will open on William Street this summer, a group of New Bedford City Councilors, a team of “MIS Chiefs” from City Hall, and groups representing the YMCA Teen Center, Nativity Prep Boys School (sponsored by Elaine’s T-Shirts) and a few downtown real estate companies. Linda Morad, Ward One City Councilor noted, “How wonderful it was to be there with teams from across so many groups.” She and her fellow Councilors, including Naomi Carney, Joe DeMedeiros, Paul Koczera, Denis Lawrence, Jr. and Leo Pimental, were a great addition to the event and are already talking about returning next year. For AHA! it’s never too early to start thinking about next year. Plans include the addition of women’s division prizes and continued outreach to a broad cross section of groups.
The future also holds even higher expectations as AHA! thinks big. “This event has been building momentum each year and has the potential, if we fill all the lanes with teams, to raise $20,000!” said Tom Ross, both an AHA! Steering Committee member and a bowler on the “Rescue Rangers” National Park team that raised the second highest total pledges after Mr. Saulnier’s ArtWorks! team. Ms. Butler reflects “When I was in the midst of planning Bowl-for-Art and collecting pledges myself both public television and NPR had pledge drives going. As I listened to their effective appeals about a year of great programming being more than worth five or even ten dollars a month, I couldn’t help but feel the same thing applies to AHA! Even though AHA! Nights are ‘free’ it does take money to put these evenings together, publicize them and pay performers and staff. Thus people who enjoy AHA! Nights throughout the year who can afford to donate $10, $20 or more to Bowl-for-Art certainly get their money’s worth.” Next year’s 6th Annual Bowl-for-Art will take place in late March. Interested participants should watch for event listings in the Coastin’ section and in AHA! communications.