November 14, 2006 > High school bowlers crossing the fowl line
High school bowlers crossing the fowl line
by Janet Grant
Serious bowlers know that to throw three strikes in a row is known as a turkey. But at Fremont’s Robertson High School, to bowl a turkey means something completely different. It’s the 17th annual Turkey Bowl and on November 15, students, faculty, and friends will gather in Robertson’s multi-purpose room to “flip the bird.” Cheered on by long-time supporters the Oakland Raiderettes, Sharkey, the San Jose Shark’s mascot, and community leaders, students and guests will see who can knock down the most bowling pins with a 16-pound frozen turkey – all in an effort to raise money to feed needy families in Fremont, Newark and Union City.
Since its inception in 1990, the annual Turkey Bowl has become the premier sporting event in Fremont and has raised over 8,655 turkeys to benefit the Tri-City Volunteers. The Tri-City Volunteers is a non-profit group that assists families in the Tri-City area with emergency food, support services, and shelter. Of the Tri-City Volunteers, Dave Posner, Robertson teacher and Assistant Commissioner of Turkey Bowl 17 says, “They do great work. We think the world of them and really enjoy supporting them.” Robertson High School is the largest donor of turkeys to Tri-City Volunteers and to those who are disadvantaged in the community.
With an enrollment of about 330, Robertson High School is an alternative school for those students, for whatever reason, have not been successful in other public high schools. Posner says that as a continuation school, Robertson may not have the best public relations. But he adds that “when people in the community come to know Robertson and what a great job the kids are doing, they get behind us.” And standing behind Robertson can mean supporting them in such worthwhile causes as the Turkey Bowl.
During Turkey Bowl, Posner explains, “A lot of learning goes on about helping others and going to others who are in need. They are wonderful students who do it for us. They always come through for us.”
At Robertson, there is a spirit week quality about the days leading up to their famous Turkey Bowl. Classes compete against each other to see who can raise the most money. It takes $25 for each class or team to get a chance to flip the bird with a maximum of four flips per team. The students themselves give what they can and Posner is always amazed at what they give considering “these kids come from limited means. They come up with a lot of money for a worthy cause. They really get it – what it means to help the less fortunate.”
To raise money, teachers resort to a tongue and cheek extortion ploy. They sell pencils, or emergency phone calls, or bathroom passes for “chump change.” The chump change goes into a bottle and is counted at the end of the competition. There is also a “Corporate Corruption” level for corporate sponsors, and “Benevolent Bowler” is a level for any donation of $500 from an individual donor. In 1990 12 turkeys were donated. The yearly Turkey Count has steadily risen. The most turkeys raised for Tri-City Volunteers was 1,282 in 2003, which equaled about $5,000. This year the goal is to raise 1,300 turkeys.
And what happens to the turkeys that are used to bowl with? Surprisingly enough, after 17 years, Turkey Bowl is only on its third set of turkeys. Not to be wasted, after every Turkey Bowl the turkeys are re-frozen to be used again. About 10 years ago, the birds were exposed to sudden defrost syndrome when a freezer had to be replaced. A proper funeral was held for the birds. This past year saw a modernization of the turkey freezer, which also led to the birds’ demise.
Besides the turkeys, smaller Cornish game hens are used by young bowlers from Robertson’s child care center, and “tofu turkeys” made from squash, gourds, and other veggies can be used by vegetarian or animal sensitive bowlers.
Posner has been with Turkey Bowl since the very first one. He is an enthusiastic supporter and advocate of the event, what it means to the students, and to Tri-City Volunteers. He has stepped down this year and handed the feathers off to new Turkey Commissioner, Hugh Kinnear. An instructor at Robertson for three years, Kinnear is the “new bird” on the block and is ready to take over the incredible legacy Posner is passing on.
Kinnear is equally enthusiastic about Turkey Bowl and sees it as a great time for staff and student bonding. “The students can see that if they work hard they can still have fun. They don’t look at it as ‘what can I get out of it?’ Instead, it’s a time for them to reflect and see they can help people who are in need.” Kinnear adds that it means a lot to students to be able to give their own money to a cause beyond themselves. “It’s amazing to see students drop off loose change in the bottle daily… they are always surprising us.” It is an inspiring example of those who have the least giving the most, as half of what is earned in Turkey Bowl comes from the Robertson students.
During this holiday season special tribute should be given to Robertson High School, whose students, staff, and friends have been feeding the hungry of the Tri-Cities for 17 years. And in the spirit of giving and in the spirit of fun, this worthwhile charity is definitely an event where fowl play among students is not only encouraged, but expected.
If you want to help the needy of your community, donate to Turkey Bowl 17. Make your checks out to the Tri-City Volunteers, but mention that it is for the Robertson High School Turkey Bowl effort. The Tri-City Volunteers is a tax exempt organization.
For more information or to send donations contact:
Robertson High School
4455 Seneca Park Ave
Fremont, CA, 94538
37350 Joseph St
Fremont, CA 94536