It was more than just good times being had Saturday at the AMF Bradenton Lanes bowling alley. Manatee County employees, along with their families, friends and members of the community, came together to bowl in a effort to raise money for the United Way.
Nick Wagner was all smiles as he bowled, ate pizza and drank with his team made up of buddies, mostly from the county utilities department.
"We've won the last three years. They don't like it when they see us come in," Wagner said jokingly. "It's a good group every year."
This year the team was down one of its star players, though, so it had to bring in a rookie, he said.
Dylan Clark wasn't disappointing, though.
"They needed someone to bowl, so they called in a ringer," Clark said. "I've been bowling for quite a while, since I was 12 or 13."
Mary-Pendleton-Brown, fiscal services manager for the county's Community Services Department, helped run the show on Saturday.
"These wonderful baskets were put together by employees," she said. "What's significant this year is we got $2,700 donated toward the
baskets and for the sponsorships of the teams."
Raffle tickets began selling Friday, she said, starting the fundraiser with $1,000.
A total of 26 teams participated, with five players per team bowling league style.
"Once we pay the bowling fees and the prize payouts, all the money will go the United Way," she said. "Each year, most bowlers donate most of the their cash back, however."
Katie Becker, development director for the United Way of Manatee County, was pleased with the great turnout. The county staged a United Way Sporting Clay Shoot at Ancient Oak Gun Club in Lakewood Ranch that was also a success.
"Similar to the clay shoot, this is all organized by Manatee County employees," Becker said. "There is a lot of community support here outside of just county employees."
The event does more than just provide a financial impact but an awareness, she added.
"It shows our presence in the community," Becker said. "We are out here bringing people together and showing a united team."
Carmen's Italian Cafe was among the Bradenton-area buisnesses that partook in the event.
Denise Berte played on the team of the restaurant she loves.
"I did it with them last year, and I had a great time," Berte said. "Just knowing it's for charity and who I am bowling with makes it fun."
Kay Rizzo, Carmen's wife, was excited Saturday to be having fun and paying it forward.
"We also believe in giving to the community and good causes," Rizzo said.
The Rizzo family knows what it is to have the community reach out to them. Less than a year ago, Carmen Rizzo's daughter was diagnosed with cancer. The community rallied together to raise money for their grandaughter's care and education. Home Depot even came in and remodeled a room in the family's home.
County Commissioner John Chappie bowled Saturday as well.
"It's fun, it's all for a great cause," Chappie said. "The employees are great. They do things throughout the year to raise money for the United Way."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.