Bowling benefits veterans

BOARDMAN — Having fun while helping veterans was the aim of the inaugural Stars and Strikes fundraiser Sunday at Camelot Lanes.

All proceeds from the bowling tournament and related fundraising efforts, including a basket raffle and 50-50 drawing, are going to Veterans’ Outreach in Liberty.

Board member Steve Kenski took the lead on the new event and even came up with specific competitive categories. Dozens of bowlers began signing in and warming up to prepare for some friendly competition.

Many of the teams were clad in their own designed shirts sporting their team names and sponsors. The preregistered teams of four men and co-ed teams began bowling following the singing of the national anthem, and each team played three games.

Before and during the event, all participants enjoyed a luncheon buffet that included pizza, salad and more. All players, fans and family members were able to purchase tickets for a basket raffle that included items from local businesses and sponsors.

After the event, all teams were treated to an awards banquet where the three games for each team were tallied and Veterans’ Outreach plaques were presented.

Veterans’ Outreach Executive Director Teri Ely said, “It was a very commendable turnout for our first bowling fundraiser. And we are very grateful to Camelot Bowling Lanes for allowing us this opportunity. They have donated their facility and their staff for the entire function today for us and our veterans in need.

“We plan to see more and more participants each year, just as we saw in our annual golf outings at Bedford Trails Golf Course in Coitsville every year. Last year was our seventh annual outing and we saw a total of 34 teams and 136 participants. We expect another great turnout this September at Bedford Trails.”

Ely said the basket raffle brought in $500 and the 50-50 brought in $240. She also said the owners of Camelot already are planning to host the fundraiser again next year.

Teri’s husband, John Ely, said, “Our mission at Veterans’ Outreach is to honor and serve all veterans. Each veteran has unique needs. We use our program resources to offer a hand up, not a handout, in order to benefit them, which in turn benefits our communities and our nation. Because of this philosophy, we continue to grow a great foundation, not just in our local communities but also in communities in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, New York and West Virginia.”

Over the past 29 years, Veterans’ Outreach has helped more than 150,000 veterans from various programs and fundraisers. Its Direct Aid program provides up to $200 per veteran per year. Direct aid needs include shelter, rent, utilities, food, auto repairs, clothing and relocation.

It also has a Heroes Closet program that distributes free clothing and personal items. The Freedom Food Pantry programs provide healthy, fresh and nonperishable foods all year to help eliminate hunger.

“Bob Julian, Veterans’ Outreach service director, meets with Ron Mitchell every Monday and Wednesday to load up Ron’s van at Gleaners Food Bank (in Youngstown) to fill our food pantry in Liberty where we feed 40 to 50 people every day by giving them a box of food. We are so grateful to Bob for donating his time and van,” Teri Ely said.

Also open to all needy veterans is a Workforce Program that helps them find employment.

John Ely said his father was a Pearl Harbor survivor and struggled his entire life with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. During the Japanese attack, his father saw many fellow soldiers die, but he also saved many lives by pulling soldiers from the harbor after the attack.

This experience took a toll on his father and the entire family. John Ely said watching his father struggle was the catalyst for him deciding to help all veterans in need. John also spent three months in San Francisco at an early age, and was curious as to why there were so many homeless people there. What he found out was many of them were military veterans, further fueling his desire to help, he said.

Teri Ely said many nonprofit organizations claim to help veterans and she asked people to look up Veterans’ Outreach on Guide Star Charity Reviews, where it achieved a Platinum Seal for Transparency, and on Charity Navigator, where it receives a 100 percent rating year after year.

John and Teri Ely have a son and daughter. Their son Ben is in the Army Reserve and has served in Afghanistan. Their daughter Elisha does much of the social media work for the organization, as well as creates the brochure.

For more information on Veterans’ Outreach, visit its website or call 330-755-5792.


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