In a time when a great many concerns compete for our attention, it is easy to suffer from "Compassion fatigue" regarding the AIDS crisis. But the AIDS crisis hasn't gone away, and fortunately The Foothill AIDS Project, in its 16th year, continues providing non-profit services to the HIV/AIDS community in east San Gabriel Valley and San Bernardino County in California. On March 8, they addressed this serious problem in a fun way with their second annual Balls O'Fire Celebrity Bowling Tournament. And while raising money for charity by tossing balls at a bunch of pins may sound odd, the event generated an amount well into the five-figure range, which is the sort of success you can't argue with.

The event sold out well in advance, a couple of hundred bowling aficionados being eager for the chance to challenge more than 50 celebrities from the worlds of sports, film, and television in a four-hour contest. After a fortifying luncheon, the games began, filling all 50 lanes of the Brunswick Covina Bowl with friendly- and noisy- competition, as a multitude of spectators looked on.

To keep things lively, the celebs rotated lanes, ever ready to meet and greet the crowd. While many of the showbiz folk weren't exactly avid bowlers, they were enthusiastic and happy for the opportunity to champion a good cause. Fitting right into this noble ideal was Animal Planet personality Matt Gallant, who kept his shirt on- literally- "Because if I just had my t-shirt on, it might intimidate the rest of the bowlers."

Showing a matching sense of responsibility was pro break-dancer Byron McIntyre, who confided, "Usually when I'm bowling I'm drinking. They have kids here, and parents, so I decided to put the beer down."

It's easy to joke about Hollywood types as role models, butthere's no question thatthey set a good example here. Daytime drama star and musician Donn Swaby summed up the prevailing attitude by saying "I am really glad to be able to help," although on the bowling side he noted that "I am not a professional.... I have fun doing it, but me and the gutters have become really good friends."

Fellow soap star and Melt veteran Eric Martsolf, taking a moment away from his admiring female fans, had a similarly laid-back approach. "It's fun and it's for a good cause," he said. "Sunday afternoon you either sit out in the sun or you go spend money somewhere, so I thought bowling is a good alternative."

Sean Kanan stays very active when it comes to charity fundraising. "I have done a lot of fundraisers." Kanan states. "This is the first one in a while and its great to be back. However, I'm a horrible bowler,but I just had my all time high bowling game, 147.The highest I ever bowled! I 'm really happy about that."

While John D'Aquino has done equally as well on the bowling end, "I'm not doing too badly considering I came in second. Cory Feldman beat me by about 10 points." It is contributions to the community that are truly notable. "Most of the organizations I'm involved with are for kids. Now, I also want to be involved with geriatrics. They tend to be forgotten. To go and talk to them, hang out and listen to their stories is so wonderful."


Actress Patrika Darbo, another fundraising veteran, struck a serious note. "AIDS has been a back burner sort of thing," she noted. "People think it's been cured or it's on the way out, and it's important that all of us who have some sort of celebrity do something to keep this up."

And keep it up they did, until the final game was bowled and the scores were tallied. The results showed that baseball player turned actor Scott Egan and soap star Arianne Zuker were the celeb first-placers, with Robert Woodman topping the youth category. In the patron division, Ryan Blad and Mary Rietta were the top dogs. So they took home their trophies, The Foothill AIDS Project made a nice chunk of change, everybody involved could feel satisfied that they had done a good deed......and the losers could start plotting their revenge for next year's event. Sure, it's all in fun- but they don't call it Balls O'Fire for nothing.

To Donate to The Foothill AIDS Project click here

To Find out more about AIDS click here

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© Melt Magazine 2003