Demure and unassuming Aleta Sill set at least one category of bowling achievement on its ear this year at the 2011 USBC Women’s Championships in Syracuse, New York. But, never one to rest on her laurels, she is just as focused on doing well for some lucky animals that have Detroit connections.
In fact, August 6 is her sixth annual event to do just that.
The 2011 Bowl-4-Animal Rescue fundraiser is scheduled from 7-11 p.m. at Country Lanes, 30250 W. Nine Mile Road in Farmington Hills. In conjunction with Sill’s Farmington business, Aleta Sill’s Bowling World, the event is held in the same building as the pro shop, which is co-owned by bowling expert Michelle Mullen.
It features 9-pin “no tap,” karaoke, deluxe Tin Can auctions, 50/50 raffles and free food, courtesy of Red Robin and Domino’s Pizza.
Frequent adopters of animals, and owners of eight themselves, Sill and Mullen hold a permanent place in their hearts for the Michigan Animal Adoption Network and the Dearborn Animal Shelter, the two recipients of their annual fundraisers. To date, they have donated $62,000 to them.
Last year’s profits more than tripled those of the first year.
“We have a deep love for animals in need, and just have a passion for this,” Sill, 48, said. “We split the profits between the two causes, admiring the work that Michigan Animal Adoption Network does every day with the street rescues that need food and straw for the animals. And the Dearborn shelter was suggested to us by our own veterinarian who knew of their needs.”
That vet, Dr. Cheryl Good, is with the Dearborn Family Pet Care.
Their pro shop also serves as a holding center for pet food, supplies and other donations for needy animals in the Detroit area. One such case occurred in recent weeks with the arrival of a Farmington family’s cache of food after the loss of its own pet. Sill and Mullen, 46, gratefully accept any such donations, then deliver it wherever it’s needed.
By also displaying a pledge sheet at their website, YourBowlingCoach.com, they not only have increased their fundraising exponentially each year, but also benefit by people knowing they are a drop-off location, too.
“It’s helped pump up the dollar amount for that event, and accounts for a full third of what we raise,” said Sill. “It’s no problem at all to serve as a collection center. We love helping where we can.”
Sill is at times called on to help people who are relocating, but can’t take pets with them. That’s how she added Princess to their collection of three dogs and four cats. The 12-year-old husky mix came from a moving family, then developed blindness from diabetes. Receiving daily injections now, the dog has nevertheless assimilated well and is surrounded by the other pets in the sunset of her years.
“I wasn’t sure how it would work out, especially bringing an older dog into an already established group of animals, but right from the start, she — and the others — were great toward one another,” Sill said. “It was as if they knew she needed them and they assimilated immediately. Adopting her really was the right decision, and I think even the animals knew that.”
Livonia residents Sill and Mullen want to help Dearborn with the challenges faced in recent years as the locale for numerous animal hoarding problems. Such problems have placed an undue burden on the shelter and other resources — as has the recent trend in dumping animals due to the economy, multitude of new litters or the oppressive heat.
“Our motto in helping the animals find Forever Homes is: Don’t Shop — Adopt,” Sill said. “The idea of puppy or kitten mills for stores selling them is brutal, especially with so many animals needing homes. We are also proponents of neutering to try and control the abundance of homeless animals and help the ones already in need.”
Friends for the Dearborn Animal Shelter PR Director Sandra Boulton heads the organization, which sports a 100 percent placement rate for all animals that are adoptable. Acute injury or other conditions that prevent an animal living through an adoption are the only reasons that prevent adoption. Community assistance has provided some extraordinary help, such as cancer surgeries and chemotherapy, before the animals are placed in a permanent home.
“After we received national media attention in 2009, people realized the importance of our day-to-day functions and saw we are a well-run organization,” Boulton said. “So, people had added interest in helping us — some due to their own personal reasons and some not. It may have happened because they have seen the work we do, or they adopted an animal or took part in one of our educational outreach programs.”
Third-party fundraisers, like the Sill/Mullen bowling event, are part of the additional shelter income and well received, says Boulton.
“Aleta and Michelle have created one that’s a natural extension out of what they do,” she said. The shelter plans to award them accordingly.
“This year, they are being awarded one of our organization’s greatest honors, the ‘Big Heart Award,’” she said. “Efforts like theirs are critical to the daily operation of our organization and this acknowledges their tireless support. The animals and humans at the Dearborn Animal Shelter are grateful to them for hosting this.”
After the fundraiser began in 2006, it garnered national media coverage by ’09, probably due to the extensive area hoarding. Although some of that spotlight has diminished, even professional bowlers arrive to help Sill and Mullen raise money.
Many bowlers — professional and amateur — are animal lovers, such as Sill’s Auburn N.Y. 2011 USBC Women’s Championships doubles partner, Michelle Feldman. While staying Feldman, she was impressed by her menagerie of three dogs and two cats. Although the two have worked as teacher/student, then record-breaking sports stars, they further bonded over animal ownership, said Sill.
“Animals give so much and expect nothing in return,” Sill said. “And, it says a lot about people who appreciate that unconditional love that animals provide.”
Sill and Feldman won Scratch Doubles at the tournament this summer, handing Sill her 32nd national title in a long and impressive list of accomplishments. She is the first woman ever to earn $1 million in the sport, although that took 19 years to achieve and a lot of ups and downs, she acknowledges. In 21 years of competing, Sill’s taken 32 tournament titles; is a member of seven halls of fame — including the 110th inductee into the National-American Polish Sports Hall of Fame; rolled 31 perfect games of 300; had nine series of 800 or more (815 remains her highest); was named Woman Bowler of the Year twice; and is the only bowler — male or female — to take Bowling’s Triple Crown twice, winning the WIBC Queens, Sam’s Town Invitational and the U.S. Open to do that. Her expertise is among the nation’s best, continually earning the praise and admiration of the public as well as sportswriters and bowling hierarchy. She repeatedly was named as part of the elite Detroit native Dream Sports Team that includes hockey great Gordie Howe, fighter extraordinaire Joe Louis and accomplished golfer Meg Mallon. Sill is also a USBC certified silver coach.
Her counterpart, Mullen, was a standout high school and collegiate performer and champion, who also won a record-setting nine Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) Regional titles, and was a PWBA National Champion, as well as coached Team USA in Korea. She has 21 perfect 300 games; sports a high series of 825; and is believed to be the only bowler to have won a bowling championship at every level, coached at every level and wrote a best-selling book — it’s titled “Bowling Fundamentals.” She was also chosen the Midwest Region Player of the Decade for the 1990s. Her gold USBC coach status puts her among an elite 30 with the same standing worldwide, and she’s only one of 10 female ones.
“Animals give so much and expect nothing in return,” Sill said. “We’ll make sure they do benefit each year, and if I ever win the lottery, I will use that to work even harder for them.”
For more informational go to: http://yourbowlingcoach.com , or http://www.facebook.com/aletasillsbowlingworld or call Aleta Sill’s Bowling World at: (248) 615-9060.