Department Spotlight: Bowling for a good cause in Tennessee

Editor’s note: This is a weekly series of Department Spotlight stories featuring unique programs and initiatives of departments throughout The American Legion.

Since 2011, the Department of Tennessee has used a unique, and fun, way to raise funds and bring together the entire Legion family during the department’s state meetings. The department opens the weekend with a bowling tournament that is open to bowlers of all ages and abilities.

Department Adjutant Dean Tuttle said the bowling fundraiser started at the department’s 2011 Mid-Winter Conference. The formation of the Tennessee American Legion Bowling League Rules and Fines Team came about to raise funds for The American Legion national commander’s project each year.

“The whole idea is to raise a few dollars and have a lot of fun,” Tuttle said.

In order to raise money, the Rules and Fines Team – comprised of Legionnaires – creates rules that Tuttle say “randomly pop into their heads. They have no guidelines or bylaws to follow. They just do it. The rules and fines are haphazardly done and again, for fun.”

Those who violate the rules are fined. Some of the rules broken over the years include having a birthday, wearing a Legion cap, not wearing a Legion cap, either being too quiet or talking too much, throwing a gutter ball, coming to the tournament late (the department is known to have published multiple start times), not cheering for your team.

“One young lady is known to do cartwheels when she strikes,” Tuttle said. “So naturally, she is fined for distracting other bowlers.”

All Legionnaires, Sons of The American Legion and Auxiliary members, as well as visitors who attend the tournament, are subject to the rules and fines.

“Rarely does anyone complain or fail to participate,” Tuttle said. “We have several members that appear to each event with bags of quarters to contribute, while others make a one-time donation via check or cash to cover their anticipated numerous fines.

“It really doesn’t matter because all proceeds go to a help a worthy project or projects designated by our national commander.”

The fines haven’t scared the crowd off. Tuttle said that since the initial tournament in 2011, the spectator gallery has more than doubled.