Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Micanor Regis signs an autograph for Evan Cobb, 8, during the Challenged Child & Friends bowling event at Dave & Busters at Sugarloaf Mills Mall in Lawrenceville Wednesday. The event raised funds and awareness for Challenged Child & Friends which serves children with all types of developmental disabilities such as spina bifida, hearing loss, eye sight loss, hyperactivity, etc.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Atlanta Falcons' annual bowling event to benefit a Gainesville organization is such a staple on the calendar in Gwinnett that one of the graduates of the program considers it second nature.
That's the case for Paul Shoaf, 6, who bowled with his father and sister at Dave & Buster's in Sugarloaf Mills with 26 Falcons players, cheerleaders, assistant coaches and head coach Mike Smith. The 10th annual event is one of four main fundraisers for Challenged Child and Friends Inc., which serves children from six weeks old to 6 years old with all types of developmental disabilities such as spina bifida, hearing loss, eye sight loss and hyperactivity.
"He just thinks it's normal to go bowling with the Falcons," said Jason Shoaf, referring to his son. "It really means a lot that the Falcons come out and support the local community, and it's for a good cause."
Along with bowling, Falcons players and coaches autographed bowling pins, T-shirts and jerseys for the children and attendees or corporate sponsors who made donations to the event.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters was a regular bowler last year, at about three times a week, but instead enjoyed being around the children.
"I get more enjoyment out of them being happy," Peters said. "Something so small for me can put a smile on their face. They're going through life with things most of us don't have to deal with. They're strong people."
Smith has been involved with CCAF for about four years, but one gesture he did during the NFL lockout two years ago stood out to Stephen Cobb, a CCAF board member. While the Falcons players couldn't participate, Smith made sure the event still took place.
"So Mike Smith brought coaches and himself, and turned it into his own little signature event," said Cobb, who bowled with his son, Evan, and has attended the event for seven years.
Without the Falcons' support to put on the event, Cobb said CCAF would be out of business.
"We'd have a $20,000 hole in our budget," he said. "It's cool that the kids get to mingle with the players and cheerleaders in a very relaxed atmosphere."
Smith said the Falcons coaches and players are competitive by nature -- whether it's bowling or football -- but also came out to have fun.
"Not just for the kids, but the players and myself, and some of the assistant coaches," Smith said. "We bowl and have a fun evening, good food and raise some money."
Peters agreed about the competitive aspect.
"These guys are all super competitive, and they might not want to admit it, or act like it's super important to them," he said. "But when it gets heated, you can see it."
Cindy Wilson, director of development and marketing at CCAF, appreciated the Falcons' support.
"They believe in our organization and our vision and what we do," she said.