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Kuddles for Kids program helps to give back to host cities

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The United States Bowling Congress Open Championships is about more than just bowling.

In its 115-year history, the tournament has been held in 49 cities in 26 states, and each visit is an opportunity for staff and bowlers to enjoy what each city and region have to offer, while the host city is able to showcase the things that make it special.

The steady flow of visitors over a seven-month period, from the start of construction on the custom venue to the last bit of teardown and cleanup, means a big economic boost for the city, and the donation of materials used to build the tournament’s temporary home to a local charity or organization, means the legacy of the Open Championships will live on locally in the form of homes and other structures.

Another special layer has been added to the event-host city relationship in 2018 with the introduction of the Kuddles for Kids program, a multi-organization partnership that allows the bowlers, who come from all 50 states and several foreign countries, to directly impact the life of a local child.

The on-site USBC Bowling Store, a one-stop shop for all tournament-related souvenirs, features a special plush dog that bowlers and guests can purchase for $10 (plus tax) and donate to the chosen local first responders. This is being done at both the USBC Open Championships in Syracuse and the 2018 USBC Women’s Championships in Reno, Nevada.

By having the dogs on-hand when responding to emergencies or situations that involve children, they can be used to provide comfort to a child in what could be a scary or traumatizing moment.

The Kuddles for Kids program at the tournaments was initiated by MainGate, the company that operates the USBC Bowling Store, both on-site at the events and on USBCBowlingStore.com.

It is modeled after a program introduced in 2017 at National Hot Rod Association events called Project Nitro Dog.

Fans at each NHRA event are invited to purchase a plush Nitro Dog. The dogs sold at each race are gathered and donated to first responders in the communities where the races are held. Last year more than 6,000 dogs were donated to communities around the United States.

“Since we’re the official merchandise partner of USBC, we’re really honored to be part of these tournaments,” said Kathie Greenwood, MainGate’s Vice President of Brand Development.

“And one of our company values is always giving back to the communities we’re in, so we’re proud to be able to bring our Kuddles for Kids program into the tournament communities. The ultimate goal is to put a plush in the hands of a first responder who may encounter a child in a traumatic situation, with the hope that it will provide comfort in that moment. The bowlers have been so generous so far, and we’re excited to now be able to distribute them to the community.”

In Syracuse, the team at Visit Syracuse has selected the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center to be the recipients for the dogs donated in the Salt City, while plans in Reno still are being finalized. In all, more than 200 plush dogs are expected to be donated during the run of the two events.

At each tournament, a special doghouse has been placed outside of the Bowling Store as a way to collect the plush dogs while the tournaments roll on. The Open Championships kicked off its 107-day run on March 24, and the Women’s Championships got underway April 19.

“This is tremendous for us, because whether we’re out on the street in a patrol car at a scene where there’s a child or something happened at the child’s house, just the ability to give the child something such as these beautiful stuffed dogs does so much to ease that child’s mind, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Onondaga County Sheriff Eugene Conway.

“So, we’re very appreciative of this donation, and I know the McMahon/Ryan Center will use them in much the same way. It’s just a small gesture, but it really means so much to the children in those situations.”

The McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center works directly with children who have been abused, seeing more than 1,000 children each year. Sometimes, when the children are brought into the center, they must leave their comfort items at home, or they are taken as evidence, depending on the situation.

The Child Advocacy Center helps the children through what can be a confusing and scary process that also can include law enforcement, children and family services, social workers, medical professionals, victim advocates, prosecutors and therapists and volunteers.

Having a small token to help offer comfort and ease some of the trauma can be incredibly valuable.

“We know when we give these to the children, they are excited and grateful just to have something to hold onto, and it really does help offer some comfort,” said McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center Director of Outreach and Education Maureen Foran-Mocete. “For the bowling congress to be able to do this for us is just a great thing, both for our center and for the children of our community.”

USBC and this year’s host cities actually have long-standing relationships, with the Open Championships previously having been held in Syracuse in 1935, 1958, 1973 and 1999, and both tournament’s making regular visits to Reno, since the opening of the National Bowling Stadium in 1995. The Women’s Championships also visited Syracuse in 2011.

Though the 2018 tournaments are nearing their conclusions and soon will move on to new host cities – the Women’s Championships will end July 1 and the Open Championships will wrap up July 8 – the legacies of the event will live on in each location.

In 2019, the Open Championships will return to the South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas, and the Women’s Championships will head to Northrock Lanes in Wichita, Kansas.

“We really feel like the bowlers are part of our family here in Syracuse, and the fact that they’re giving back to the community in an area that is a sad part of our day – when children are upset with troubles at home or tragedy – means a lot,” said Visit Syracuse President and CEO Danny Liedka.

“These items definitely do provide some much-needed comfort at a tough time, and it’s so nice of the bowlers to embrace this program like they have. Their generosity really touches our hearts here in Syracuse.”

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Herbert Bickel

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