The Thomas Jefferson Raiders bowling team was presented with a check for the final $2,000 it needs to make the trip to compete in the national tournament from Delta Dental of Washington. JEROD YOUNG, the Mirror

Delta Dental sends Jefferson bowling to nationals with $2,000 check

A trip to Red Robin and a blank notebook was all Jefferson bowling needed to chart a dream.

Coming off a third-place finish in the state championship, Feb. 4, the eight team members met regularly at the restaurant during the course of the last three months, not only to catch up, but to plan how to financially get the Raiders to the 2017 U.S. High School Bowling National Tournament, June 24-25 in Nashville, Tennessee. With the help of a notebook plucked from the bowels of a drawer, the girls charted their progress with a May 1 deadline.

Nearing the end of April, they knew it would be close, and Jefferson still needed $2,000 of its $9,200 goal. Someone associated with the school nominated the team to Delta Dental’s “Smile Power Tour” project, which rewards local community members for doing extraordinary things around the state. Tuesday, the dental company surprised the team with travel luggage filled with dental supplies and a large check for the remaining amount the Raiders needed to go to the tournament.

Jefferson is the only team west of Colorado participating in the national tournament.

“When you see people help out young people who they don’t know, help them reach a goal, reach a dream, you know life’s not as bad as it’s made out to be sometimes,” Jefferson bowling coach Joseph Townsend said. “These young ladies deserve it because they’ve put in a ton of hard work. They deserve every ounce of help everybody’s given them.”

The dream of competing in the national tournament was initially one that only Raider players believed would happen.

The idea was presented by Abby Harris before Jefferson’s celebratory dinner at Red Robin after the team took third at the state championship.

“She was like, ‘It probably won’t happen, but it’d be cool if we did this,’ and we just thought it was a cool idea,” freshman bowler Whitney Lee said.

Even though Harris was quick to dismiss it, she was unable to stop thinking about it.

The team re-visited the topic and decided to present it to the school district. The team was told if it could raise the money for the trip, the girls could go.

Harris was at teammate Haylee Pollard’s house one afternoon, when the idea clicked.

“Once we found out [rom the district] we could go, she was like ‘where’s a blank notebook?’,” Pollard said. “We were like, what are you doing? And she was like ‘I’m grabbing a notebook.’ For what? She broke down possible fundraisers, people we could contact. She even figured out lane costs.”

The team went from bowlers to accountants overnight. The girls used the notebook to keep track of each bowler’s fundraising efforts.

The team met each week to set fundraising goals based on how much money had been raised. Sophomore bowler Madision McCord remembered just how meticulous Harris’ accounting was.

“Abbie was crazy,” McCord said laughing. “She had that notebook broken down by name, what they’ve done, how much money they had, their ideas for raising more money.”

After reading the Mirror’s initial story on the team’s fundraising plans, Delta Dental of Washington thought the Raiders bowling team was a perfect candidate for the “Smile Power Tour” campaign.

After hearing about the work Jefferson was putting in to make their dream reality, Delta Dental officials wanted to help by providing the team with its final $2,000.

“Seeing what they’ve been able to accomplish as a team really put a smile on our faces,” said Kristi Ellefson, brand and public relations manager for Delta Dental of Washington. “So we really wanted to return the favor.”

After speaking with Townsend, Delta Dental set up a pretend media event in the school’s theater, where the girls thought they were sharing their story with local media outlets.

After “interviewing” players and Townsend, the “tooth fairy” appeared and told the team she had a surprise. The curtain on the stage parted to reveal a big check accompanied with suitcases filled with dental supplies and snacks.

“I was just like — is this really happening?,” McCord said. “I’ve seen this on, like, game shows. I was like whoa, this is really happening. It definitely means a lot.”

What impressed the company the most was the bowlers’ dedication to do whatever it took to raise the money.

Ellefson said stories like the Raiders’ was an ideal foundation for the Smile Power Tour.

“Seeing the smiles on these girls today was really amazing,” Ellefson said Tuesday. “We’re so happy that we’re able to give them the money that they need to go to nationals. This is something they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives. You can’t replace that. It’s a smile that’s going to last a lifetime.”

Jefferson resume bowling practice at Secoma Lanes in a couple weeks.

The Raiders will initially practice twice a week but will up that until they leave for Nashville on June 23.

Senior captain Cassie Lee said it will take some time for Jefferson to get back to game-ready bowling, but she said the team is far more grateful to spend time together at the bowling alley and less time reminiscing about its past glory over burgers.

“I think even if we don’t place as well as we want to, we have to remember that we’re the only team in this region that’s going,” she said. “Even that itself is really cool. If we don’t place, but we give 100 percent effort and work together as a team, going there together is enough because I care for and love all these people.”

The Thomas Jefferson bowling teams checks out the swag bags and luggage cases for their trip to Nashville provided by Delta Dental of Washington. JEROD YOUNG, the Mirror

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