Irish culture enthusiasts use native game to support families in need

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a sport that dates back to old world Europe. A group of Irish culture enthusiasts want to use Irish road bowling to help the families of fallen first responders.

One strong throw can mean the difference in winning and losing. In Irish road bowling, if your ball stays on target, your team can win, but if it doesn't, the heavy ball might hurt whatever it hits.

Kansas City's Ancient Order of Hibernians celebrate the age old game, which dates back to the 19th Century in Northern Europe. A shower tells the thrower where to toss the 28-ounce cast iron bal -- or a bullet, as it's traditionally known.

“It's just a blast,” Hibernian Bowler Andy Sprehe said. “It's a great easy sport for men and women. You don't have to be athletically or physically adept whatsoever. It's just an easy day in the country.

Denny Dennihan is the Hibernians president, and an active appreciator of all things Irish.

“We are an organization that provides charitable funding for different groups,” Dennihan said.

The Hibernians have their sites set on SAFE, a non-profit group in the metro that financially supports the families of fallen police officers and firefighters. Dennihan points to Irish immigrants from the past century, many of whom became public servants in the US.

“So many became police and firemen,” Dennihan said. “In fact, if you go back to the northeast now, you still find a very high percentage of the policemen and firemen still have Irish heritage.”
Leon Harden is a board member with safe, who says the benefit road bowling can help families whose loved ones have died in the line of duty.

“This year, we're providing $20,000 checks,” Harden said. “Next year, we're providing $25,000 dollar checks. It's money we don't want to spend and use, but we want to have the funds available when needed.”

The benefits from rolling an old ball could be life-changing.

Some proceeds from next Saturday's Irish bowling event will go toward the Duchesne Clinic, a free medical clinic in KCK for families who cannot afford to see a doctor.