Annual BVL/VA Bowling Tournament Provides Fun, Fitness and Friendship for Veterans Coast to Coast

Veterans from Oregon to New York tested their bowling skills and vied for bragging rights in the recently-concluded 71st Annual BVL/VA Bowling Tournament.  This year’s event saw some of the traditional powerhouses rise to the top of the leaderboard – including teams from the Providence (RI) and Washington DC VA facilities in the Outpatient and Electronic Bowling Divisions respectively; but also several surprise first place finishes from the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center in the Inpatient Division and the Columbus (OH) Ambulatory Care Center in the Vision Impaired Division.

Teams compete at or near their VA facility and scores are submitted online to BVL by the recreation therapist coordinating the team.  The tournament has seven different divisions based on patient accommodations and interests.

“Recreation Therapists at VA hospitals around the country tell us that the tournament offers a great source of camaraderie for the veterans – we are always delighted to hear the stories of the cheering and high fives that are part and parcel of this team event,” says BVL Executive Director Mary Harrar.  “BVL is in the business of providing positive recreational opportunities for our nation’s veterans, but since our roots are in bowling, this event is very special to us!”

The Providence team has been coordinated for years by Henry Rea who explains that bowling has long been an integral part of their recreation therapy program, noting “It’s a sport that can be enjoyed by any one of any age and offers options for veterans at every level of rehabilitation.”

Members of the First Place Providence RI VAMC Bowling Team

Bowling is also considered to be a ‘bridge’ sport, which can help veterans with skills necessary to transfer back to community life.

Rea adds that although his veteran bowlers were introduced to the sport as a therapy, they’ve all completely taken to the game – often bowling two or three times a week at an area bowling center that provides discounts for the veterans.  (Shout out to Lang’s Bowlarama www.langsbowlarama.com!)

Gerald Montgomery, Recreation Therapist at the Southern Oregon VA facility explains, “The bowling opportunities truly help the Veterans in their recovery and independence and in structuring their leisure time while here in treatment.”

Recreation Therapist Thomas Kumroy from the Cleveland VAMC says, “I have to agree with the words of one of the Veteran bowlers who shared that the tournament acts as a goal.  I noticed that when I offered Wii bowling ‘warm-ups’ preparing for the bowling tournament, Veterans would come to participate more.  The Veteran anticipation and excitement for the tournament created an ‘event.’  When it came time for the tournament and bowling time, the Veterans were consistent in their participation and they were encouraging and supportive of their fellow teammates. Krumroy also shared an anecdotal story of a veteran who started to go to wheelchair yoga because he said that he ‘had to work on strengthening his core for the tournament.’  “Now there’s incentive!” said Krumroy.

The top three division winners for the 2018 event are:

Inpatient

Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center + Clinics                 6957

Saint Cloud (MN) VAMC                                                                6301

Saint Cloud (MN) VAMC                                                                6194

 

Outpatient      

Providence (RI) VAMC                                                                   9307

Jefferson Barracks (MO) VAMC                                                  8004

Grand Junction (CO) Veterans HCS                                           7996

 

Seniors

Northport (NY) VA                                                                           7949

Jefferson Barracks (MO) VAMC                                                  7905

Jefferson Barracks (MO) VAMC                                                  6959

 

Vision Impaired

Columbus (OH) Veterans Ambulatory Care Center             4846

Columbus (OH) Veterans Ambulatory Care Center             2556

 

Wheelchair

Cleveland (OH) VAMC                                                                    8571

Memphis (TN) VAMC                                                                     6354

Bath (NY) VAMC                                                                               5833

 

Electronic Bowling   

Washington DC VAMC                                                               11753

Memphis (TN) VAMC                                                                     8196

Central Arkansas Veterans HCS                                                  7956

 

Electronic Bowling Seniors   

Northport (NY) VAMC                                                                10504

Washington DC VAMC                                                               10243

St. Cloud (MN) VA HCS                                                                   9738

The inaugural BVL/VA Bowling Tournament was launched on the White House bowling lanes in 1947 by President Harry Truman for the injured WWII troops.  It has been a mainstay of the recreational therapy programs in the VA system since.