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How this charity channels bowlers into giving back to veterans

Bowlers to Veterans Link has been around since G.I.'s came home from World War II, but finally got a chance to roll up some cash this year in Conway.

CONWAY, Ark. — Bowling may not be the institution it was in the 1950s as millions of G.I.'s came home from war, spread out to the suburbs, and took up the game, but the Bowlers to Veterans Link (BVL), created in that era still has the power to roll up big bucks for veterans' groups and services.

"It started back in 1942 with the Women's bowling congress," said Conner Allen, as he described the charity. "They started raising money for all the veterans coming back from World War II."

Allen sketched the history of the organization that set the pins for a fun tournament on Veterans' Day at his family's "bowladrome" known as Conway Family Bowl.

For 80 years, the BVL has been the way for bowlers of all skill levels to turn their strikes and spares into dollars and cents for veteran organizations.

The non-profit provides the framework to stage tournaments and then make sure the money raised makes it to deserving groups.

"The good thing about them is they only take eight percent of donations. The other 92% goes straight to our veterans," Allen said, whose father, Pat, envisioned the entire month of November as a time to generate money.

They set out a five-figure goal, put out the word, and then counted on a full house of current and former service members coming in to knock it down.

"All the money that we're raising in our event is going to be going to the Arkansas Veterans' Home in North Little Rock," the younger Allen said.

This tournament delivered, as it hit the $12,000 mark before the end of the month, while it also provided a stage for some of the area's best bowlers to trade their league shirts for service colors.

Among the games held alongside the competitive strings was an Army-Navy challenge and various lucky pin contests and pinfall prizes.

And for those who just came to have fun, they got a chance to pick up a spare and share a salute.

"It means a lot to them," Allen said. "They really appreciate everything that we do. They sacrificed a lot. We're just giving a little bit back to them for what they've done for us."

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