Bowling For Kids’ Sake
Harvey Rackmil and his fellow Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu board members find that fund-raising is right up their alley - and hopefully yours, too
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For all you celebrity stalkarazzi wannabes, mark your calendars for Aug.9.That’s the night Aiea Bowl will be rented out as the exclusive hobnob headquarters for some big names. Making their first public debut after the birth of their twins will be Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; also there will be the ever-lovely Beyonce and Jay-Z; and don’t be surprised if you spot a blast-from-the-past - Elvis, Marilyn, Frank and the rest of the Rat Pack - strolling the lanes.
But one of the biggest names gracing the night’s Hollywood-themed event is a man you may have never heard of but probably should have: Harvey Rackmil.
Rackmil’s first role with the national nonprofit organization Big Brothers Big Sisters came in 1983 when he became a Big Brother to a young boy named Mike in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. After being a dedicated and guiding force in his Little’s life for eight years, Rackmil made the move to Hawaii in 1991.
Cut to 17 years later and this Big is once again making a difference for at-risk youth - Rackmil is the incoming chairman for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu (BBBSH) board and has been the superstar behind the annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake (BFKS) fundraising and awareness campaign since 2005.
“It’s been fun. It’s been especially exciting to take this fundraiser from where it was to this huge event today,” he says of organizing the benefit.“One of the big changes is that we’ve started promoting the use of our online fundraising site. You can put pictures on your personal website and put e-mails out to friends, family and colleagues to get them involved, too. Using that technology has really helped spur our efforts and really helps you put a message out there to let people know why you’re doing it.”
In fact,the online fundraising tool was Rackmil’s idea. The modest leading man tips his hat to his fellow board members for all their work in making each year’s bowling benefit bigger and better than the last, but BBBSH director of development and marking Wendy Gorka applauds Rackmil for his own production.
“We’re really excited about this year’s event because we have progressively raised more money each year, especially since we started the online program in 2005,” says Gorka.“Using the online fundraising tool has allowed the average bowler to raise more than $200. It’s much easier than the traditional pledge sheet form.Just imagine how many people you have in your e-mail address book. Now imagine if you sent out a mass e-mail to each person and each one replied with a pledge of $10 or $20. That’s our goal - to get more people to use the online tool.”
Rackmil has a page of his own set up with his own goal of raising $2,000. So far, the No. 2-ranked fundraiser is more than 80 percent there, but he makes sure to acknowledge the supporting cast of characters who help BBBSH each year.
“I like to call this event the ‘people’s fundraiser,’” he says before flashing a smile. “It’s not big corporations buying tables; it’s the power of the 700 people helping us reach our goal of $200,000. It’s that power in the numbers that each person can make a difference. You ask friends, family and colleagues, and they’ll help you. Even if you raise just $10 or $20, that helps us make an incredible difference for our kids.”
Currently, BBBSH serves about 1,000 keiki through its programs.
Both Rackmil and Gorka say they would like to see that number grow to 3,000 - 10 percent of the estimated 30,000 at-risk-youth population in the state - by 2010.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of Little Brothers on the waiting list because we don’t have enough male volunteers,” laments Rackmil. “Hopefully we can grow to create more matches and mentoring relationships in the community.”
Their goal certainly isn’t that far-fetched. This year’s 22nd annual BRKS is expected to draw a crowd of more than 700 participants dressed to the nines as their favorite famous persona and ready to pull out all the stops for their favorite cause. After making a red-carpet entrance, bowlers will compete throughout the day in five three-hour shifts that start at 9 a.m. and keep going until midnight. And what shindig would be complete without the awards? Oscar-like trophies and, for the first time ever, goodies such as iPods, Ala Moana Center gift cards and travel packages will be given away to the best in a of variety categories.
“I haven’t talked to anybody who’s been involved who hasn’t had fun,” Rackmil states. “You can see the camaraderie when you walk about the bowling alley. It’s really a way to showcase all that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu has to offer.”
Luckily, you don’t need an agent to get into the biz.Community supporters can form teams with coworkers, family or friends and collect pledges to raise funds for BBBSH youth mentoring programs.
“There’s still time to get a team together, and there’s a lot of different ways to lend support,” says Rackmil.“You can have team with ‘virtual bowlers’ for people who can’t be there that day. They can go online and set up a website and send out e-mails to raise money. So there may be 15 people on the team but have only six people bowling that day.”
Gorka continues the list of possibilities: “By being a bowler, that also involves fundraising as well as a minimum pledge of $75. People can also come out and volunteer the day of the event. We need help with registration, setting up and breaking down, being an emcee ... or they can talk to their employers about becoming a company sponsor.”
To get your name on the A-list, visit www.honolulubowl.kintera.org and contact Lesly Johnson at 521-3811, ext. 229.
“I think the best part is when you hear the stories of the matches with the Bigs and the Littles and hear about the difference that they’ve made in each others’lives,“he states with tangible earnestness.“A lot of us just take it for granted that we have people in our lives who help mentor us. But there’s a lot of kids across Hawaii and the country who don’t have that kind of support and help to make the right decisions in their lives.
“You definitely get more back than what you give when you get involved, especially with a child.”
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