Clairlea Strikes Again!

Clairlea and friend

She’s been bowling for 48 years, and half that time Clairlea Eckert has been involved in BBBS’ Bowl for Kids bowling celebration. It’s been a chance to combine two things she loves – bowling and helping kids.

“I love kids,” said Clairlea, who used to babysit part time, “and anything I can do to help make their lives better I’m going to do.”

A lifelong Austinite, Clairlea started with Bowl for Kids when her league got involved with the event. “A lady came and asked our team if we wanted to raise money, bowl, and have a party,” said Clairlea. “I thought, ‘That sounds like fun.’ And I’ve been bowling at Bowl for Kids for 24 years.”

She’s been bowling in general since high school. “I’ve closed down three bowling alleys in Austin,” she laughed. “I don’t really have a league or anyone to bowl with much anymore. That’s why every year I wait for Bowl for Kids to happen.”

Clairlea doesn’t just bowl either, she makes a point to dress in costume – winning best costume at the 2019 dinosaur-themed BFK event. “I love to be around people, and I love to dress up in costumes,” she said. “I’ve worked for 40 years as a crossing guard for the city – for a while at Bryker Woods Elementary and now at Casis Elementary – and I wear different hats for the kids every day. I have a hat for almost every theme of every holiday.”

It’s the little things that make the difference. “I love to make people’s day better,” she said. “I try to make kids feel good so when they go to school, they feel happy.” She notices if kids at her school have new haircuts. She notices and comments on new shoes they might be wearing, jokingly asking if they come in her size.

It’s all part of Clairlea’s mission. A mission to make the day brighter for each person she meets, whether they’re a kid or an adult. “It makes my day to make someone else’s day,” she said. “I encourage the kids each day. And if I can brighten their parent’s day even a tiny bit, that’s great.”

It’s easy to see how she makes so many friends just while helping them cross the street. “I’m a talker,” she laughed. “I’ve been that way all my life. I was born feet-first, overheated, and I’ve been a hot mess ever since.”

Clairlea is on her second generation of kids. “Some of the kids I help cross the street now, I “crossed” their parents when they were young and had their parents when I worked in the school cafeteria,” said Clairlea. “Today’s kids are kind of like my grandkids now.”

For Clairlea, being part of Bowl for Kids helps make the days brighter for a lot of people. “Having a mentor helps keep kids focused. They have a buddy, someone they can turn to,” she said. “There are so many bullies kids have to face. They need support.”

She knows a thing or two about having problems with other kids. “I have a lot of severe disabilities. I had to try to explain them to the other kids. Why I had to wear a certain type of glasses. Why I had to wear these ugly looking shoes,” she said. “And then they stopped. I spoke up for myself. I wasn’t going to let them push me around.” For Clairlea, kids who have a Big Brother or Big Sister have someone in their corner who can help them handle these types of problems.

“Bowl for Kids is a really good program,” she said. “It’s a great way to meet other people, you get to bowl which is great exercise, and it’s a great atmosphere. Where else can you donate to a great program and have fun all at once?”

She raised over $2,400 for BFK this year. “I get a lot of my donations from my crosswalk people,” said Clairlea. “They always give me a great donation because I take care of their kids and they like to do something in return.”

“I asked one of my parents if they’d like to donate to Bowl for Kids and he said ‘Oh, that’s a great program. I was a Big Brother,’” she said. “And he keeps in touch with his Little Brother who is grown now. I think that is so terrific!”

Clairlea demonstrated her enthusiasm for the event once again as she had her fundraising goal met, and her team organized and prepared to “bowl away” the competition as they came together to help kids realize their full potential.

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