While it’s true that volunteering can be hard work, at times it can also be a lot of fun. Particularly when the work is combined with something you really enjoy. For Gary Montgomery, that comes in the form of a polished wood lane, ten wooden pins and a heavy ball.

Gary has been the general manager of Corbin Bowl in Tarzana since 1999, but he’s been bowling for much of his life. He’s been a part of the Senior PBA Tour and has worked with junior bowling programs, but it was about ten years ago that the idea to combine bowling with fundraising really struck him.

“They held the Southern California Firefighters Bowling Association tournament at Corbin Bowl in 2002 and that sparked the idea for a charity drive,” Gary recalls. “As we were doing the tournament, I thought…why not use this event to raise money for the LAFD?”

This simple notion led to the LAFD Firefighters Bowling Benefit, a yearly event that’s now in its eighth year. The Bowling Benefit isn’t a tournament. It’s just a fun night of bowling that’s accompanied by pizza, prizes and good company. All bowlers of all skill levels are welcome, even first-timers. And while some bowlers may walk away with a higher score than others, the real winners are the families of fallen or disabled firefighters. All of the proceeds from the event go to the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund.

As anyone who’s attended the Firefighters Bowling Benefit can attest, it’s a lot of fun and a great way to support a very worthy cause. However, putting it all together is a lot of work, particularly since it seems to grow larger with every year. However, Gary doesn’t mind putting in the effort. In fact, it’s his favorite part of the fundraiser!

“I love putting it all together!” Gary says. “From gathering the donations, to getting items for the silent auction, to getting bowlers to sign up, to best of all, sending in the check.”

Corbin BowlManaging a successful bowling alley that operates seven days a week is a busy gig. Many people would find it difficult to also oversee a fundraiser of this size, no matter how much they enjoyed it. But for Gary, it’s just the culmination of a lifetime spent combining his skill and love for bowling with an enthusiasm for volunteering.

“People should always volunteer,” he explains.  “If you have the ability to give back, you should do so! I have been volunteering for the past thirty years. I worked with the Ventura County Probation Office back in 1981. I’ve held a league for New Horizons every Saturday for twenty years, which are adults with special needs. Since 1991, I’ve been helping with Junior Bowling programs. In 1999, I worked my way up to being chosen as an Official for the Special Olympics World Games in North Carolina. And of course, I’ve been raising money for the last eight years for the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund.”

Gary Montgomery has demonstrated how much one person can accomplish when they make volunteering a regular part of their life. But he’s also shown us that there’s nothing wrong with lowering your bowling handicap a little bit while doing it.

By Tim Beedle