Annual bowling benefit helps families touched by cancer

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Anna Marie Lux
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

JANESVILLE--Andy Wolf calls the donation “a huge blessing.”

His father, Tony, died in December from cancer and left a stack of medical bills.

“We were in the process of applying for health insurance,” Andy explains.

He is thankful that money raised at the Sixth Annual Bowling for the Cause benefit in Janesville on Saturday, March 8, will go to his mom and family.

“This is incredibly helpful,” Andy said. “I know my dad would be happy to see everyone getting together and having fun.”

Julie Coulter about seven years ago brainstormed the idea to help Rock County families affected by cancer.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time,” Coulter recalls. “As I was being wheeled into surgery, my mom went for testing. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer.”

The two went through their first chemotherapy together.

But Coulter's mom, Brenda Osmond, died after several months.

While going through treatment, Coulter of Janesville met families who were struggling financially.

She told her sister she wanted to make life easier for them.

“We used to be really involved in Relay for Life, which I love,” Coulter said. “But I kept thinking how nice it would be if we could hand a check directly to a family.”

She worked with her sister Mary Casper and her sister-in-law Shelly Osmond to organize the first bowling benefit.

“We went into it not knowing what we were doing,” Coulter said. “We did not realize all the work involved.”

They raised $16,000 the first year.

“For a bunch of girls who thought they were an unorganized mess, it turned out pretty good,” Casper said. “The amount raised varies every year and ranges between $10,000 and $16,000.”

Today, the women enlist the help of a dedicated committee, friends and family to pull together an event that draws hundreds.

Committee members informally suggest families who might benefit from a cash donation and then choose a recipient.

Last year, 160 bowlers turned out.

“We have a following of our own family and friends who attend,” Casper said. “Others come because they see the sign. People just care. There are a lot of good people out there.”

The event is designed to be fun.

“But it also is healing for our family,” Coulter said. “It helps us in so many ways to help someone else.”

The benefit has moved to a bigger location at Black Bridge Bowl to accommodate more bowlers.

Coulter, who is cancer free, believes her mom would be proud of the effort.

“My mom was a huge bowler,” Coulter said. “She would just love it.”

Since her mother's death, she has learned to take one day at a time.

“A lot of people say that after a traumatic event, but I really do live for the day,” Coulter said. “My family went through a lot with losing my mom. They also feared I would not survive. It's amazing how something so traumatic can bring you together.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at (608) 755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

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