Gina Garcia bowled 156 in two games on Saturday -- not professional level by any means but that didn’t matter to the Fort Lauderdale resident.
“I’m very proud of my score,” Garcia said at the conclusion of Poverello’s Bowl-a-Thon. “We all sucked but we had a good time.”
The 26th annual event, held at Sawgrass Lanes in Tamarac, raised more than $108,000 for Poverello, an organization that provides food and basic living essentials to individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Garcia bowled for T-House, a project initiated by the Florida Department of Health in Broward County.
“I like to support all the community events,” said Garcia, a chemical engineer. “This was very well organized and it’s for a great cause.”
Deanna Muniz agreed. Muniz, a substance abuse treatment counselor from Sunrise, participated in the Bowl-A-Thon with her transgender son. Like Garcia, Muniz bowled for the T-House team.
“I bowled a 130, I did pretty good, I guess it was beginner’s luck,” Muniz said. “This is a wonderful cause and so good to see our community come together.”
In addition to bowling activities, prize packages and gift bags were auctioned off and multiple raffles were held. Nicole Halliwell, a South Florida character illusionist, emceed the event and DJ Aj Reddy spun tunes as bowlers took to the lanes under low lighting.
The event received support from numerous corporate sponsors, including AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Bank United, Macy’s, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida and Wells Fargo.
“It’s so exciting to see so many community members come together,” said Mitch Bloom, treasurer for the board of directors at Poverello. “This was an awesome turnout.”
Bloom estimated around 250 people attended the Bowl-A-Thon, one of Poverello’s signature events.
“Nobody else does what Poverello does,” Bloom said. “It has been a part of the Wilton Manors community for many, many years.”
Due to high demand for lane access, the Bowl-A-Thon was moved out of Wilton Manors westward to Tamarac. Sawgrass Lanes has 56 lanes and all were used on Saturday.
“We love this tournament,” said Roger Keel, marketing director and coordinator for school activities at Sawgrass Lanes. “The big thing is everyone coming together to have a good time. These guys spend money here when they come so that helps.”
For those who could not make the drive into western Broward County, bus transportation from Wilton Manors was arranged. At Sawgrass Lanes, hosting LGBT inclusive events is nothing new. In January, FLIRT, a local gay bowling league, is sponsoring an invitational at Sawgrass Lanes.
“Gay or straight, we want everyone to come here and have a good time,” Keel said.