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Bring spare change to bowl with Kerry

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◆ 7:30 p.m. June 27

◆ 10Pin Bowling Lounge,
330 N. State

◆ $1,000

◆ (312) 924-9234; www.wood

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Updated: July 23, 2012 7:18AM

Kerry Wood was a rookie Cubs pitcher when he met his future wife 13 years ago. Almost immediately, Sarah — then a college student — began spending her free time volunteering at Children’s Memorial Hospital. “She didn’t want to be labeled your typical athlete’s girlfriend and she didn’t want to just sit around and go to baseball games,” explains Wood.

Within months, the couple became a fixture at the hospital, visiting sick children and hosting game shows like “Body Parts Bingo.” So when they decided to launch the first Kerry Wood’s Strike Zone Celebrity Bowling Tournament in 2004, it was only natural that the beneficiary would be CMH.

Next week’s Strike Zone tournament — the couple’s seventh — will attract about 300 guests who pay $1,000 to attend or $10,000 to sponsor a lane and bowl with a celebrity team captain, such as Cubs players Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Matt Garza, Geovany Soto, Alfonso Soriano, team president Theo Epstein and John Mahoney (“Frasier”).

“Everyone’s going to be terrible at bowling, we know that,” jokes Wood, who recently retired from the team. “There’s only one or two good bowlers in the whole group, although guys start trash-talking a couple of weeks before.”

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts has purchased two lanes, and Dempster, who has attended every year, is expected to come cloaked in a costume — in past years he’s dressed as Captain America and Woody Harrelson’s character in “Kingpin.” This year, “He’ll dress up, I’m sure,” says Wood. “He didn’t give me any details, but he told me a couple of months ago, ‘My outfit has been ordered.’ ”

An auction, available now at and open for bidding until 10 p.m. the night of the event, includes a customized Cubs golf cart with signatures from the entire team, tickets to “Saturday Night Live,” a first pitch at Wrigley Field and a fishing trip with Kerry.

While the bowling tournament was the Woods’ first big benefit and continues to anchor their fund-raising efforts, over the years the couple’s devotion to helping Chicago-area children has evolved to include annual drives for school supplies, coats and toys for Chicago Public Schools.

Now, their giving is all under the umbrella of the Wood Family Foundation, which launched last summer, and the couple is about to break ground on Kerry Wood Cubs Field adjacent to Lane Tech High School. They also donated a playroom on the oncology floor of the recently opened Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Being philanthropic has become a family affair; last year, when the Woods’ 6-year-old Justin raised $68 with a lemonade stand in their Lincoln Park neighborhood, he told his mom, “I want to give it to the foundation. Can we go buy some school supplies?”

Nurturing a spirit of generosity in her three children is something Sarah Wood takes personally. “I’m not from money, and it’s important to me for our kids to know we have a blessed life because of what Dad does, but we also have an obligation as well,” she says.

To that end, it’s important to her that the foundation offers opportunities to get involved that are affordable to the average Chicagoan. “We know that people in the community can’t all take part in a $10,000 lane, but they can purchase school supplies for $15,” she says.

The Chicago Sun-Times is the media sponsor of this event.

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