A FAMILY THAT BOWLS TOGETHER
Mike Martin has owned Secoma Lanes for the last 46 years, and few people in the city don’t know Martin to some degree.
Thomas Jefferson bowling coach Joseph Townsend lovingly refers to Martin as “Mr. Mike.”
Mr. Mike got a call from Townsend recently. The conversation was both short and vague.
Townsend was raised to never have an important heart-to-heart conversation over the phone. They were always to be done face-to-face, eye-to-eye.
“I felt kind of bad,” Townsend said. “I told him I wanted to set up a meeting with him to talk about something. He asked what it was, and I just said it was better to do in person and left it at that.”
Townsend and Martin met, and Townsend explained the opportunity the Raiders had to bowl on a national stage — if they raised the money needed.
He didn’t have to talk for long.
Martin has known and formed relationships with each Jefferson bowler during the course of their lives, with initial introductions occurring when the girls could barely lift a bowling ball on their own.
All of them started in Martin’s juniors program, but Jefferson bowling isn’t a program to Martin.
He said he considers the coaches and players his family, his extended grandchildren.
“I’ve had the rare opportunity to watch them mature,” Martin said. “They’ve become pretty good bowlers. It’s no surprise to me to see these girls win the league and now have this opportunity.”
Martin simply looked at Townsend and asked what he needed.
Townsend explained the team needed to raise $9,200 in order to compete at the national level.
“Let’s do it. I can get it done,” Martin told Townsend without batting an eye.
Martin had a plan to take care of his girls, too. Not only did he make a personal contribution of his own, he started by hanging a plaque of Jefferson’s 2017 league title photo for all to see. When non-regulars ask about the photo, he promptly tells them the Raiders’ story.
He then explains their fundraising efforts. Some donate, while others offer congratulations and best wishes.
During the last month, Martin has made sure to mention it each day before league tournament play gets underway.
“This place is one big family. I wasn’t worried about it,” Martin said. “I just get on the microphone and tell them what TJ’s done the last few years. The people here rise. They step up to help their own.”
Martin’s daily announcements and conversations with Secoma regulars has produced just over $5,000 from league bowlers within the community, who, like Martin, have watched the Jefferson bowlers grow into who they are today.
It is not the $9,200 the Raiders need, but it’s a start.
Martin is not done either. Even though he has many other responsibilities to Secoma Lanes, he said he will continue to collect money for Jefferson until pockets are empty.
Jefferson’s biggest fan has already done so much for the program in its short history, but, Martin said, he is just getting warmed up.
“We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet.” Martin said. “We’ll get there, though, and we’ll do it together, as a family. Families always find a way.”
DO YOUR PART
One of Townsend’s many personal values is to never put all his eggs in one basket.
Townsend has helped the girls achieve their goal of competing nationally by signing his Raiders up, while also providing a financial contribution. Martin is playing his part, as well. Townsend told his girls it was time to do their part.
He tasked each team member with going out to neighbors and local businesses and raise $200 each. Townsend’s one rule was that the team was not allowed to ask parents for any money.
Some players have created “Go Fund Me” accounts, while others are relying on old-fashioned door-to-door knocking.
“It’s huge,” Townsend said. “This effort is teaching them a number of life lessons while also keeping a dream alive.”
Jefferson bowling is in a fight.
It is fighting to meet its goal by the May 1 deadline and fighting to raise the remaining $4,000 within that deadline.
Luckily, the Raiders have Townsend, who is familiar with all sorts of battles.
Just as Townsend had former coach and mentor Steve Goldman in his corner to help him through his tough times, Jefferson bowling has Townsend and Martin in their corner.
All three aren’t quitting until they have a victory.
“Young people are young people,” Townsend said. “It doesn’t matter if they’ve seen some of the horrors I’ve seen, or they simply missed a homework assignment. If you find something, a spark, like I’ve found in these young ladies, who brought me in, let me in, you have something. And they have something.”
To learn how to donate to Thomas Jefferson bowling, go to www.tjrpm.org/donate-tj-bowling.html.