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Bowling for lots of dollars

| Friday, Feb. 4, 2005

KITTANNING -- When the 48 or so kids from the Church of God Youth Center on Chestnut Street were asked to raise funds for tsunami disaster victims, the challenge was right up their alley -- bowling alley that is.

Youth Pastor Paul Rihel said the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster affected him deeply, and he developed a keen desire to help.

"The disaster reminded me of 9/11," Rihel said. "It came to me that I could use my influence in the ministry to do something on a larger scale that would involve many others. About the time of the tsunami disaster we had a man in our church, Jim Mills, who died. Jim had four passions in life, youth, mission fields, evangelism and, of all things, bowling.

"I realized that the kids in our youth program really needed to be grounded in helping others, not just in fund-raising for their own activities. Thinking back on Jim Mills, the idea of a Bowl-A-Thon came to me. That's when I decided this would be a great challenge for our youth ministry team."

After meeting with his youth group and getting an enthusiastic response, Rihel contacted King's Lanes to rent the entire bowling alley, a favorite haunt of Mills, for an entire evening last Friday.

Response from adults was equally enthusiastic, Rihel said. Many adults pledged amounts varying from 10 cents to $1 for each pin the youth knocked over during the three-hour marathon.

"The result was astounding," Rihel said. "In just three hours we raised more than $6,000. However, we wanted to make sure that the money would be given to a reputable agency and would go directly to tsunami victims."

Rihel said he chose World Vision, a Christian missionary and relief organization based in Federal Way, Wash. At the same time, he heard that World Vision was operating in western Pennsylvania through WORD-101.5 FM, a 50,000 watt Christian radio station in Greentree.

After contacting the station's program director, Clare Kushma, Rihel and the youth group were invited to appear live on the Marty Minto show at 5 p.m. today.

"When we got this invitation another idea hit me," Rihel said. "Why should we limit this to our church group. God told me I had to begin thinking outside the box. So we thought about challenging youth groups in all 65 Church of God congregations in western Pennsylvania. But then I thought, why limit the idea to our church. Why not involve all churches, and even youth groups such as Boy or Girl Scouts, 4-H, and so on, to get involved with the tsunami fund raising."

Rihel also realized the importance of making donations in a timely manner, so he set an Easter Sunday deadline.

"What better time than Easter to give to the tsunami victims. The potential here is great, I believe if all youth groups in western Pennsylvania work on this, we can easily raise $250,000 or more. Besides, more than 90 percent of all donations to World Vision go directly to the tsunami victim families, only a small percentage goes to administrative costs."

Rihel and about 12 or so youth group members will issue their call to action to the WORD-FM listening audience. Rihel said the call is not a competition, but a challenge.

"Look at what 48 kids from Kittanning did," he said. "Imagine what kids from all over western Pennsylvania could do."

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