As gambling games go, Milo’s ball fetch had to be the cutest of the night.
The therapy dog and his owner, Turnstone Occupational Therapist Zoe Martin, made a contest out of seeing which ball the adorable 1 ½-year-old Golden Retriever would bring back after throwing him three different colored tennis balls. People placed wagers on which one he’d return. The winner earned a whopping $5.
It was all part of Turnstone Center for Disabled Children and Adults Casino Night 2019, held the evening of March 9. The event, held at the center’s headquarters — located at 3320 N. Clinton Street — attracted more than 1,000 people looking to gamble, have a good time, and raise money for a good cause.
Packing the huge Turnstone gym not long after the event kicked off at 7 p.m., the night included about 15 different games, including blackjack; poker; high-stakes poker; a silent auction, wheelchair basketball shooting; roulette; crab races (in which gamblers bet on which hermit crab would outrace the others); a raffle; and, of course, Milo’s ball fetch, according to Turnstone CEO Mike Mushettt.
Lasting until 11 p.m., folks plunked down their cash to buy tickets and different-colored poker chips at the entrance, then used those tickets and chips to gamble and buy food and drinks — the event offered snacks of popcorn, pretzels and nachos, as well as soft drinks, mixed drinks and beers, all for the cost of a few tickets.
“It’s one of our major fundraisers,” Mushett said, “This is our 76th year of existence, and events like this are crucial for us (to raise money) because Turnstone never turns anyone away because of their inability to pay.”
The agency actually got its start in 1943 as the Allen County Society for Crippled Children and Adults, and went through several name and mission changes. The group moved to its current Clinton Street headquarters in 1985.
These days, the agency still assists adults and children with disabilities, offering physical and occupational therapy, as well as a home for several adaptive sports, including goalball, wheelchair basketball, and other Paralympic games. In fact, the U.S. Men’s Goalball team lived and trained at Turnstone before competing at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
The center’s huge gymnasium hosts a variety of sports for athletes of all abilities. On March 9, however, it simply was home to legions of games and a multitude of local benefactors. One of the evening’s blackjack dealers, a volunteer named Lyn, said he’s helped with the event for several years. “It’s a great way to help Turnstone raise some money,” he said.
Amanda Meier, a 30-year-old who chairs an organization that provides volunteers for Turnstone, was one of the attendees who gave the wheelchair basketball game a chance. Shooters got two chances to make a basket. Free throws earned $5, while a 3-pointer netted $10. Unfortunately, both of Meier’s free throws came up short. She was happy to be there, nonetheless.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Amanda Meier, who was attending her first Casino Night. “Of course, I just embarrassed myself by shooting two air balls, but it’s really been a lot of fun.”