In the News

April 25, 2016
Section: News (Local)

A Big Leg Up


HARRISONBURG — Ralph Sampson was a little out of his element Saturday.

Sampson, 55, a former basketball star at the University of Virginia and a first overall pick in the 1983 NBA draft, can do just about anything with a basketball. But bowling balls? That's a different story.

"We will find out," he said before taking to the lanes. "I haven't bowled in a couple years."

As part of a weekend visit, the 7-foot-4-inch city native stopped by Valley Lanes on South Main Street for Bowl For Kids' Sake. The annual event is the largest fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County and provides more than 20 percent of its annual budget.

Sampson was one of about 750 to 800 bowlers raising money Saturday for the nonprofit, which matches children facing adversity, called "littles," with adult mentors, known as "bigs."

"They do a great job," he said. "Their program is wonderful; their staff is great, and they've been doing this for a number of years."

The local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter raised more than $110,000 by the end of Saturday, falling short of its goal of $127,000. Sue Totty, executive director of the agency, said the money can serve between 100 and 150 children.

"It's been extremely successful, and I think any time you have an event that brings over $100,000 in the Valley, that's a pretty premier event," she said.

In 2015, the agency served 638 children, which was the most of any chapter in Virginia. Totty said its goal is to serve at least 650 children this year.

Bowl For Kids' Sake 2016 took on a groovy 1970s theme to celebrate the agency's 40th anniversary.

In keeping with the era's fashion trends, 58-year-old Nathan Barge of Harrisonburg bowled in a Nehru shirt and costume dreadlocks.

Boris Ozuna (left) helps Sonia Funez, 8, both of Harrisonburg, pick out a bowling ball during Bowl For Kids’ Sake on Saturday at Valley Lanes. The event is the largest fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County. (Photo by Austin Bachand)

Barge, a "big" in the program for about a year and a half, said he's taken his "little," a seventh-grader at Wilbur S. Pence Middle School, to the Harrisonburg International Festival, on bicycle rides and to family cookouts.

"It's just a lot of fun," he said, "to come out and support this program.

Contact Ryan Cornell at 574-6286 or

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County is a youth-services organization that pairs adult mentors in professionally guided, one-to-one matches with children facing adversity. As an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, the organization holds itself accountable for children in the program to achieve positive, measurable outcomes through research-based methods. Among other improvements, local evaluation data shows that children served progress academically, avoid delinquency, and experience increased self-confidence. Founded locally in 1976 as an outreach of Trinity Presbyterian Church, the organization is the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters agency in the state of Virginia, serving 638 children in 2015. 

© 2015 Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County
225 North High Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, 540.433.8886