Long Island bowling exec earns Lifetime Achievement Award

John LaSpina, president of Maple Family Centers, was named the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of State Veterans Homes.

The award will be presented during the association’s Winter Conference in Arlington, VA. on Feb. 6.  

LaSpina, 75, recently retired as chair of the board of Bowlers to Veterans Link (BVL), the bowling industry’s oldest and largest charity, which he has led since 2014. Since LaSpina took the helm, BVL raised $600,000 to $700,000 per year for organizations serving veterans, according to a written statement.

Under LaSpina’s watch, annual BVL fundraising has doubled, with the organization raising a record $1.4 million this past fiscal year, an increase accomplished despite a national decline in league bowlers over the past few decades from about 8 million to 1 million.

“All of us in the National Association of State Veterans Homes would like to acknowledge the tremendous leadership provided by BVL Board Chair John LaSpina,” Fred Sganga, executive director of the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook and past president and legislative director of the National Association of State Veterans Homes, said in the statement. “His commitment and gratitude towards our nation’s heroes is second to none. John single-handedly has changed the way we provide meaningful therapeutic recreation to our veterans residing in State Veterans Homes all across our great nation. His support for virtual reality technology as a tool for therapeutic recreation specialists has dramatically improved the lives of thousands of veterans. John’s legacy in veteran and family support is truly outstanding and we are proud to present him with our organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Over the years, Maple Family Centers has raised more than $600,000 for BVL, the most of any bowling center proprietor. Maple owns five bowling centers, including Coram Country Lanes in Coram; Maple Lanes RVC in Rockville Centre; Jib Lanes in Flushing; Maple Lanes Countryside in Clearwater, Fla.; and Orange Bowl Lanes in Lakeland, Fla.

LaSpina, who has been an active member and supporter of BVL for the last two decades, will remain on its board and provide assistance to the new chair Nancy Schneck. 

“I don’t believe that people should have jobs for life,” LaSpina, who has held leadership roles in various bowling trade industry organizations, said in the statement. “I have been given a lot of leadership opportunities. There was a time when I was the youngest person in the room, but now I’m the oldest person in the room. I believe that when you’re a leadership volunteer, your responsibility is to do your job well and to groom others to take your place – and to know when to move on.”

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