The crew of the Reedsburg Area Ambulance Service will conduct its 30th annual bowling tournament fundraiser over three weekends next month.
Anyone older than age 18 can participate in the tournament, which will run Feb. 11-12, 18-19 and 25-26 at Brewster's Lanes. The $15 participation fee goes toward RAAS.
"The crew decides where the money goes," said RAAS Director Josh Kowalke. "Usually, almost always, it's for equipment. Also some training."
With as many as 600 people taking part, he said the event can pay for a lot of equipment.
And that's important, he adds, because it's the only fund-raiser the RAAS puts on during the year.
"Last year we got car seats for the ambulance, portable radios, GPS units for two ambulances, waist belts ... electronic thermometers for each ambulance, a 12-lead simulator and some extra training," Kowalke said.
Tournament entrants can win cash and other prizes, as well. The tournament's overall champion will receive $120, with those finishing in second through seventh places earning smaller cash prizes.
There also will be raffles and prizes for participants who achieve certain feats during a game, including a free pizza from Pizza Hut for a ten-pin strikeout in the 10th frame. Nine-pin counts are also scored as strikes in the tournament.
Groups of 16 bowlers are only charged 15 entry fees, with the group leader bowling for free. Kowalke said a Madison woman who had family in the Reedsburg area brings almost enough people for five of those 16-person groups each year.
"This will be our 22nd year of coming to this tournament and our 17th year of having at least 40 people," Michelle Braithwaite said. "Normally we bring between 70 and 85 now."
Braithwaite said she started participating in the tournament because she grew up in Reedsburg, graduating from Webb High School in 1985. She is the daughter of Darrell and Betty Fobes.
"In the last few years of my mom's life, she used the service quite a bit," Braithwaite said. "It was really important to us to raise money for equipment because we knew it could help save her life."
She said she told people about the Reedsburg tournament at a Middleton bowling alley where she tended bar about two decades ago. Since then, the group has swelled in size.
"We'd make a road trip out of it," Braithwaite said.
Although she said her life has settled down a bit since then and raising an 11-year-old has made it more challenging to plan, Braithwaite and her group always reserve the second Saturday in February at 3 p.m. to bowl.
"I have people e-mail me in December asking, ‘Do we have our set time?' " she said.
They want to make sure they don't miss it, Braithwaite said. A mix-up one year almost led to a few people not making it.
"Everyone loves it," she said. "They've got some really fun rules that challenge people and just make it a good time. The people there make it fun."
While the large group coming from all over the state will be nothing new, Kowalke said a new raffle will be part of the festivities in observance of the tournament's milestone anniversary.
"To celebrate our 30th year, we're doing a raffle we started in December where we're giving away four guns and four spa packages," he said.
Kowalke said people can purchase raffle tickets from any of the ambulance crew at $5 per ticket or $20 for a pack of five. The drawing will be held at the end of the final bowling shift, about 9 p.m. Feb. 26, at Brewster's Lanes.
That shift starts at 7 p.m. and is already full. The two shifts on Feb. 11 and 12 are also full, but the other five have openings.
Kowalke said people can sign up the day they want to bowl if lanes are available.
"It's a lot of fun," Kowalke said of the tournament. "It's for a good cause."