PBA Hall of Famer recognized for his decades of charitable efforts with military veterans

Johnny Petraglia, a 58-year PBA member and 14-time champion, has been selected as the 2023 PBA Tony Reyes Community Service Award recipient. The award recognizes a current PBA member who exemplifies extraordinary community service, charitable or educational contributions over the course of a PBA season.

“To receive an award with Tony’s name on it is an honor, very simply,” Petraglia said. “He was a wonderful guy who did a lot of the right things for the sport and the Tour. He would’ve been a great ambassador for years.”

Less than two weeks after winning his first career PBA Tour title in 1966, Petraglia said he was drafted and began serving in the U.S. Army. He spent time in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in 1968.

Since returning to the United States in the fall of 1968, he has worked countless hours with military veterans and helped to raise millions of dollars through his work with Bowlers to Veterans Link, a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to funding recreation therapy programs for veterans.

Petraglia said his inspiration began shortly after returning home in 1968. He said a group of U.S. senators organized one athlete from every sport to visit patients in Veterans Health Administration (VA) hospitals. 

As the least heralded athlete, but the lone Vietnam War veteran, Petraglia said they paired him with perhaps the most prominent athlete in attendance: Jesse Owens.

“I learned so much from him in those couple of days about how to talk to the patients, especially the patients in intensive care wards,” Petraglia said. “He was just this wonderful and gentle man and he knew exactly how to talk to everybody.

“He really inspired me,” Petraglia continued. “I don’t know what they are doing in Washington, but I’ve got to keep this going. I found out about the BVL soon after and thought, ‘I’ve got to stick with this and do what I can.’”

Photo credit: BVL

During his full-time playing career, Petraglia visited VA hospitals throughout the PBA and PBA50 Tours. In recent years, he has spent more time helping organize fundraisers and tournaments for military veterans.

Petraglia said he also coaches youth bowlers and helps them to earn college scholarships, even a scholarship bearing his name in partnership with the Bowl4Life foundation.

In November, Petraglia celebrated his 50th year working with BVL.

BVL, according to their website, has raised more than $56 million “to support veterans by funding recreation therapy programs at veterans’ hospitals, clinics and community-based counseling centers” since their foundation in 1942.

Petraglia said in the past year alone, they have raised $1.4 million. Starting in 2024, the BVL will be the official charity of the PBA Tour.

“I'm so proud of the people that do this (with the BVL) and raise that money,” Petraglia said. “And now that we got the PBA involved, it's going to be even better. Everything, in this sense, gets launched because of Tony (Reyes). It goes back to him, somebody who helped everybody. That's as good as it gets.”

Photo credit: BVL

Past PBA Tony Reyes Community Service Award Recipients

Ryan Shafer, 2022
Warren Eales, 2021
Danny Wiseman, 2020
Chuck Gardner, 2019
Chris Barnes, 2018
Del Ballard Jr., 2017
Rhino Page, 2016
Ed Godbout, 2015
Missy Parkin, 2014
Parker Bohn III, 2013

Complete list of PBA Tony Reyes Community Service Award recipients

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