Angie Treasure

Royce O’Neale bowls with young fans at Strikes for Kids event

by Aaron Falk

Royce O’Neale stepped onto the lane at the far end of the alley, rolled a strike, and then shimmied as he walked back to his seat.

“I’m decent,” the Utah Jazz forward said. “I’ve got a couple skills.”

The rest of his bowling buddies looked like they could use a little more practice. With training camp starting next month, Donovan Mitchell, Georges Niang, Naz Mitrou-Long and Jairus Lyles are about to get to work.

“I feel like we’ve got a great group coming back,” O’Neale said. “The coaches are excited. Everybody’s excited. Once we get back, it’s going to be fun.”

But on Thursday night at the Strikes for Kids charity event, the group of Jazz players simply enjoyed themselves at Fat Cats in Salt Lake. More than 100 children from around the valley were treated to a night of fun and games alongside their favorite Jazz players.

“Just to have the opportunity to interact with the community and the kids, it’s fun,” O’Neale said.

Strikes for Kids is a nonprofit based out of California. The group partners with NBA and NFL athletes to raise money for community organizations. Thursday’s event was a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs—a group dear to O’Neale.

“Me going to the Boys & Girls Club when I was little, it was a great opportunity,” said O’Neale, who grew up in Killeen, Texas. “It meant a lot. I went after to school to play basketball and hang out with my friends. It was a great opportunity.”

In addition to providing more than 100 children with an evening of bowling, food and games, O’Neale and Strikes for Kids also gave each child a new backpack filled with school supplies.

A number of Utah Jazz players have teamed up with Strikes for Kids over the years. Mitchell, Derrick Favors and former Jazz guard George Hill have previously participated. But Strikes for Kids founder Joe Allen said one-time Jazz guard Shelvin Mack is the best bowler of the bunch.

No matter who prevails on the lanes, Allen knows the kids are the real winners.

“It’s huge. It’s so huge,” he said. “I love to see the excitement that these kids get to enjoy tonight with the players.”