Nearly a year ago, the Exceptional Bowling League was in danger of coming to an end.
The league, which provides a weekly bowling outing for special needs adults, had been solely supported for 50 years by the Augusta Business Club. Because of dwindling membership and financial resources, the club wasn't able to financially support the league beyond the end of last year.
It was devastating news, but Jackie Mertins and other parents of the league's participants were determined to ensure that the league continued on, she said.
"I think they would be very lost without it," said Mertins, the league's coordinator. "Every week, they look forward to coming. Some of them have been bowling for 50 years with this league. This is a fun time for them."
As the community learned about the league and its situation over the past year, people have stepped up to help, Mertins said.
"It was surprising with the economy that people are still interested in donating," she said.
"A lot of people don't think of bowling as important as paying for food, clothing or medical bills, but it's something they realize is important to the participants and that they need the outing once a week. We truly thank them for their support."
Some have committed to making monthly donations to the league and a local golf pro organized a We are Special golf tournament in June benefiting the league and Lynndale Special Olympics.
The golf tournament raised a total of about $10,000, which was split between the two organizations, Mertins said, a turning point for the league.
"After June, things were looking like they were going really well, especially after the golf tournament," she said. "But between December last year and June, it was sort of iffy as to whether it was going to continue."
The tournament is expected to become an annual benefit for the league, she said.
The donations and money received from the tournament is expected to carry the league for another three years. They have also been approved for a grant, which will provide funding for an additional year, she said.
However, their quest to ensure the longevity of the league continues.
"We can't stop now," she said. "It's an ongoing venture and the funds need to be there each year to support the league."
The league plans to organize its own fundraisers to help build its funds and raise awareness about the league and its mission.
"We want to make sure that we keep this going as long as we can," she said. "Thanks to people caring and their generosity, we have a good start."
To learn more about the Exceptional Bowling League, visit their Facebook page: Exceptional Bowling League of the CSRA, or call Mertins at (706) 733-7430.