Bean bag Buddies

Supporters of area Big Buddies programs were trying something new Saturday, at the group’s spring fundraiser

MARSHALL – It was the start of a new era for supporters of the regional Big Buddies program. Area residents were lining up at their designated alleys – but for the first time in more than 20 years, they weren’t bowling alleys. Instead, players were taking aim with beanbags, hoping to score points by tossing one through the hole in the target at the opposite end of the lane.

Techniques ranged from the careful throws of beanbag tournament veterans to the two-armed, underhand fling used by some of the littlest participants.

“The kids have been having a blast,” said Allan Bakke, of Western Community Action.

The first-ever Big Buddies Toss-A-Thon was held Saturday at the Marshall National Guard Armory. The event was a new way to fundraise for Big Buddies, instead of past years’ Bowl-A-Thon events. Big Buddies helps support children and youths by giving them a chance to meet with an adult mentor one-on-one.

When the Marshall Bowl closed its doors last year, it left Big Buddies of Western Community Action looking for a new annual event, Bakke said.

“We looked at a lot of different things,” before settling on the popular lawn beanbag game, he said. Beanbag boards can be set up just about anywhere, and it’s a game that can be played by people of all ages.

“We wanted something that was good for kids and adults,” Bakke said.

The response to the new event has been enthusiastic, organizers said. Local businesses signed up to sponsor lanes, and area residents even pitched in to make the supplies. The beanbag boards were built by students in Marshall High School’s shop classes, said Big Buddies coordinator KaLea DeSmet.

“They said they all really loved it,” DeSmet said. The boards were finished up with printed wraps from Awards Plus, while Marshall area volunteers sewed the beanbags.

“The support has been really, really good,” Bakke said.

The Toss-A-Thon brought together people of all ages, including kids and their Big Buddies, area families, and teams of adults just out to support the Big Buddies program.

Southwest Minnesota State University students Kade Vopava and Lauren Sapp were taking part in the beanbag tournament, dressed in their Mustang apparel. They said they were happy to help out with Big Buddies.

“I like working with kids, so this is great,” Sapp said.

Bakke said the Bowl-A-Thon/Toss-A-Thon has received support from some long-time sponsors. DuWayne Johnson, of RE/MAX in Marshall, was visiting the Armory on Saturday morning, to check out the event. Johnson, said his office was one of the sponsors of the local fundraiser.

“Big Buddies is just a great program,” Johnson said. With a buddy, young people get a chance to make a new friend and role model. “It gives them something positive in life.”.