The Bowling Industry’s Veterans Charity: The Bowlers to Veterans Link
Today I had the pleasure to speak with Mary Harrar, the executive director of The Bowlers to Veterans Link.
Jim Nyhan (JN): Mary, thanks for speaking with me today about your work with BVL.
JN: I want to first start with a simple overview of BVL and the organization’s wonderful mission. BVL was founded in 1942 to help support America’s heroes in uniform. Since then, the organization has raised more than $50 million to provide recreational and therapeutic programs and services. These programs and services will help boost their morale and brighten spirits. Through funding and support, these veterans recuperating at VA Medical facilities across the country can enjoy a movie, go bowling, spend the afternoon hanging at a ball game, play a video game, be visited by friendly Labrador, or try their hand at painting. Mary, before we talk about your work with BVL, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
MH: I currently serve as the executive director of BVL. I took over the helm in June of 2016. At that point, I had 29 years of experience in the bowling industry. I had previously served as an executive administrator for a bowling chain in the Philadelphia metro area. Through my work there, I had come to learn all aspects of the bowling industry, from marketing to administration, to fundraising. In fact, it was at a MUBIG meeting that I was introduced to BVL. When the center where I was based was sold, I called BVL to let them know I would no longer be handling the program. That’s when I learned about the open position for an executive director. The job was a perfect fit for me – veterans’ issues have always been important to me.
JN: Could you share a few of your favorite moments with BVL?
MH: I would have to say the highlight for me has been representing BVL at Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Those ceremonies are incredibly moving and really touch your heart. I was honored to be able to carry the American flag into the amphitheater for one ceremony. I love the patriotism involved in my job, and being at Arlington National Cemetery is such a poignant experience. I was also honored to participate in the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In addition to those experiences, I really love talking to groups about BVL. Just knowing that we are helping men and women who have given up so much for us is a privilege. Knowing that we are helping those who suffer from disabilities connected to their service is very rewarding.
JN: For good reason, with Veterans Day on November 11th, November is BVL Month. What does the BVL have planned for this year?
MH: For the month of November, we celebrate “BVL Month in America,” which is our way of partnering with bowling centers to honor veterans and provide a way for communities to recognize their local veterans. November, as you mention, is a logical choice for us for this initiative because Veterans Day is in the middle of the month.
Last year we had 125 centers across the country participate. This year our goal is for 200 centers to participate, we would love to double the amount raised during November.
With this effort, we have two primary goals: first, to get the word out about BVL and raise funds, and second, to encourage local communities to get involved in supporting veterans.
We understand that centers need revenue; we have six programs centers can run that include both revenue for the center and a fundraising effort for BVL. We have professionally-designed flyers for them to use.
Additionally, bowling centers get to choose how the funds will be used – whether to support local veterans’ centers or groups. The proceeds come to us, and then we distribute them, and centers are empowered to choose to have the funds go right back into VA facilities in their communities!
JN: What are you most excited about in BVL’s future?
MH: Our Ambassador Program, which will enable us to reach out to more people about our programs. Our theme this year is Team BVL. We want everyone to join our team to support America’s heroes. We want to keep up the strength of BVL and stay true to the promise that was made to veterans and military 76 years ago.
Additionally, there is a fun project on the horizon, which David Kellerman, proprietor of Mel’s Lone Star Lanes in Georgetown, Texas, is spearheading. He is walking the Appalachian Trail to support BVL. I’m even going to walk 10 miles with David in Pennsylvania, and I’ll be working to get people to join him along the way. Keep an eye out for information about how bowlers and bowling centers can get involved too!
JN: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
MH: One of the things I like to remind people of is that BVL is bowling’s own charity, created by the bowling industry. $50 million raised, a dollar at a time, in small towns and cities across the country. It is bowling’s best-kept secret!
Our nationwide effort, which we call “Care. Commit. Contribute.” It’s an effort to significantly increase funding for our mission, and it provides a way for bowling centers to pledge a donation, so it’s not only the customers we serve who are making a donation, but also the centers themselves.
JN: Thanks for your time today, and for your work on this great charity! Keep up the great work supporting our veterans, Mary! The work that you and your board members do is inspiring – and just another reason I am so proud to be part of this industry. Thank you, again, Mary, and a big thanks to the participating bowling centers, the USBC organizations, and all of the bowlers who participate in BVL’s programs and help to make them so successful in supporting veterans!
If your bowling center is not participating in any of these wonderful programs that BVL organizes, I encourage you to reach out to Mary for more information. She can be reached by email at Mary@bvl.org, or by phone at 703.934.6039. The BVL website is: www.bvl.org.
I’ve also included below, the email Mary sent out to promote BVL Month in America, and you can use to sign up for the activities in November.
Yours For Better Bowling,
Here’s how to make Your “November Is BVL Month” Fund Raiser Easy and Successful
Founded in 1942, BVL is a national 501(c)(3) charity which is consistently acknowledged for efficient and effective programming delivered with extremely low overhead. BVL has been recognized as one of “America’s Best Charities,” acknowledged as a “Top Rated” Nonprofit, earned a Gold Participant GuideStar distinction for a commitment to transparency, and accepted into the Combined Federal Campaign.
Everyone likes to see their name…especially when it’s on a BVL soldier pin pinned or taped to a wall, corkboard or any other display area you may have in your center. That soldier pin, signed by the person who donated money to BVL is a proud recognition of that contribution, and your customers will love it. (Lots of centers display it at the reception area or at the front entrance lobby in a covered/frame!)
Proprietors all over the country are emailing us to get the soldier pin promotion as well as our PDF flyers for leagues, open play and special events that can be customized to your center’s program. Just a few clicks of the computer and it’s all done.
Have any questions or want more information? Please call me at (703) 934-6039 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more about BVL, bowling’s own and oldest charity since 1942, please go to www.bowlforveterans.org
Executive Director, BVL