Continuing a great BVL tradition, hundreds of veterans in care at VA Hospitals across the country are participating in the 69th Annual BVL/VA Veterans Bowling Tournament during the month of March.
In a special tribute this year, the BVL tournament is honoring the memory of one of BVL’s “First Ladies,” Central Arkansas native Theresa Hart Kelone. During WWII, Theresa served on WIBC’s “Wings of Mercy” campaign to raise funds for ambulance planes to ferry the wounded back from the battlefields of Europe – thus founding the “Bowler’s Victory Legion: BVL.”
Theresa devoted her life to the growth of bowling and supporting our nation’s veterans. She founded the Central Arkansas USBC WBA, organized the Little Rock WBA as well as 44 other associations in the state. She served 29 years on her local board and as secretary for the Arkansas State WBA. She also served 18 years on the WIBC board — acting in a variety of roles from treasurer through First Vice President.
“We are delighted to be able to recognize Theresa’s significant impact on BVL and the sport of bowling,” noted Central Arkansas USBC WBA Director Debbie Kent. “Theresa gave and gave of herself; she was a tireless worker and a wonderful leader for our organization. Although she’s passed from this world, in a way, she still continues to guide us!”
The tournament is open to all veterans connected with the VA system. Teams are organized and supervised through the VA Recreation Therapy department. Separate divisions, based on hospital size, as well as participant age and physical limitations, help level the playing field. There are also divisions for electronic game bowling.
“The BVL tournament provides us an opportunity to get our veterans engaged and keep them motivated,” remarked Bay Pines Recreation Therapist Jessica D’Alessio. “Bowling is a great leisure pursuit that gives Veterans an opportunity to learn, practice, and build skills that can be transferred into their personal community.”
According to D’Alessio, the goals of these programs include community involvement with peers, improved self-esteem and self-worth, increased awareness of community leisure resources, and practicing healthy communication skills in a community setting.
Although the posted tournament dates are March of each spring, for the patients at Bay Pines, the BVL tournament is much more than a four-week event. D’Alessio explains that, at their facility, the BVL tournament is really a months-long, multi-faceted experience.
Those sentiments are echoed by Cindy Ingels, who coordinates the tournament at the Charleston, SC VAMC, “The veterans of our Community Living Center look forward to March throughout the year. They can’t wait to don their team shirts and hit the lanes. Participating in the annual BVL tournament provides our veterans with opportunities to interact with the community outside the walls of the CLC, to experience success and have an improved quality of life.”
Team scores are submitted online by the coordinators in April and the winners are announced in May.
“We thank the Central Arkansas USBC WBA for their generous donation for the tournament and the opportunity to honor Theresa’s memory,” notes BVL Board Chair John LaSpina. “In thanks to Theresa and her fellow “Wings of Mercy” project leaders, BVL is here today, standing up for our nation’s veterans who have given so much.”
For more information on the tournament, visit: http://www.bowlforveterans.org/programs/bvlva-annual-veterans-bowling-tournament/