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Dorothy Awards Sponsors
Get to Know 2013 Dorothy Honoree The Sweetheart Invitational!Published Jan 22, 2013
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Please explain what the Sweetheart Invitational is, for those who don't know.
The Sweetheart Invitational is a 10-pin bowling event held annually around Valentine's Day. Proceeds from the tournament - which brings together gay and straight bowlers alike - help non-profits throughout Connecticut. After each tournament, committee members suggest beneficiaries for the upcoming year and are selected by a vote.
How many people are on the organizing committee of the Sweetheart Invitational? How many bowlers typically participate each year?
For the 2013 Sweetheart Invitational, there are 10 people on the organizing committee, which is led by co-directors Jason Barnes and Steve Shura, and we're supported by many friends and volunteers. We typically have between 175 and 200 bowlers competing each year. The event attracts bowlers from all over the northeast (including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia), as well as Michigan, Washington, and Canada.
Name some of the benefactors of the Sweetheart Invitational since its inception.
Beneficiaries have included the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective, Our Companions (a no-kill animal shelter), True Colors, AIDS Project New Haven, Leeway House in New Haven and the Connecticut Gay Men's Chorus. Our tournament is one of the largest LGBT sporting events in New England and the only internationally-recognized LGBT sporting event in the state of Connecticut.
What has contributed to the Sweetheart Invitational's longevity and success?
The tournament's longevity (following this year's event, we'll begin planning our twenty-fifth anniversary tournament for 2014) is rooted in an ability to attract new, passionate committee members and volunteers each year while retaining veterans with a love and respect for the tournament and the sport. We change our themes each year and listen to our bowlers, doing our best to give them what they want and show them a good time while fostering the spirit of friendly competition.
What is it about gay folks and bowling?
Bowling is a great way to meet a wide variety of GLBT people and make new friends while enjoying a challenging sport. You get back what you put in, whether you're looking for some fun or for competition. For many bowlers, it's just a fun night out!
What inspires the board of the Sweetheart Invitational to work so hard for the tournament?
We're inspired by our bowlers! We see first-hand each year during the three-day event just how much they enjoy the Sweetheart tournament and from our always-high percentage of returning bowlers, it's clear that what we're doing works. Each year, we'll see a lot of the same faces and the event can take on a reunion sort of atmosphere. We get a lot of feedback from our participants on everything from the lanes themselves to the host hotel and banquet facility. On the beneficiary side, we've made a point in the past few years to present the monies at one of our fundraisers or other events so that bowlers and committee members alike can see where the money goes and see that what we're doing does make a difference.
In the nearly 25-year history of the Sweetheart Invitational, what is the organization's crowning achievement?
The increase in monies gathered over the past four years is one of our proudest achievements. Years ago, the tournament might give out maybe $500 per year to each charity, while our donations to local charities from 2009 to 2012 have exceeded $35,000. Our co-directors are proud to have assembled a solid committee that has enabled the Sweetheart Invitational to raise this kind of money.
What are the goals of the organization over the next five years?
We'd like to increase our ability to attract sponsors - getting more businesses involved would help the tournament and, in turn, our charities. Getting our beneficiaries more involved, too, would be extremely helpful, even with something as simple as providing access to their mailing lists. The more they're involved, the more money we can raise and that will only help them!
What will you do with your Dorothy Award?
We'll use our Dorothy Award to set an example and show our affiliation with the New Haven Pride Center, utilizing it as a stepping stone to acquire more sponsorship and more advertisers. The recognition, which means so much to us, will help spread awareness of who we are and what we do.
What is the best free bowling tip you can provide for our community?
Find yourself a league and have fun! Bowling is a fun sport for everyone from the novice to the would-be professional. It's good exercise and a great way to meet people.