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Bowling with the homies

Bowling fundraisers growing in popularity among Chicago athletes

Luis Gomez

About Last Night

3:42 PM CDT, May 16, 2012

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Bowling for charity is hardly a new idea in the Chicago area. The Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade hosts a bowling night during his annual Wade's World Weekend and the Cubs' Kerry Wood will host his Strike Zone Celebrity Bowling tournament for the seventh time June 27 at 10Pin Bowling Lounge. But it appears local athletes, past and present, are now jumping on the fundraising trend more than ever.

"We had our first Kerry Wood Strike Zone event in 2004 and really felt like we were pioneering this idea," said Sarah Wood, wife of Kerry Wood and Executive Director of the Wood Family Foundation, by email. "We were a little nervous that it wouldn't catch on. Everyone had always done golf outings and we wanted to do something different. We didn't realize what a success it would be…"

Former Bear Jerry Azumah will host a celebrity bowling tournament for his Azumah Student Assistance Program (ASAP) Foundation for the second year in a row Wednesday at Lucky Strike Lanes. The Bears’ Corey Wootton and Kahlil Bell and former Bear Garrett Wolfe are scheduled to attend.

“It’s a way to give back in a nontraditional atmosphere and have a lot of fun,” Azumah said by email. “When you are asking, at times, the same people to attend your events, or those who go to the same types of events regularly, you have to do something different just for them.”

The Bears’ Charles Tillman will host his Pro BOWLer Charity Fundraiser, which will benefit his Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, June 7 at the newly opened Kings Lanes, Lounge & Sports in Rosemont.

Ex-Bear Desmond Clark, who is scheduled to attend Azumah’s benefit, will host his innaugural “Pro” Bowler Charity Challenge, which benefits his 88 Wayz Youth Organization, Tuesday at 10Pin Bowling Lounge. The Bears’ Brian Urlacher, Robbie Gould and former Bears Azumah, Steve McMichael and Otis Wilson are on the guest list for the benefit.

“A bowling tournament is very interactive,” said Clark by email. “The people who attend the event will be able to reach out and touch, talk to, and have a good time with the celebrities in attendance. Bowling is also a sport that all people can enjoy -- even if you're bad at it.

“You have everyone in close proximity to each other which leads to the interaction that those who pay to attend look forward to. Galas and golf tournaments, which are great charity fund raising events, only give you so much access. Mostly importantly, it's fun.”

Twitter @aboutluisgomez