For more than 25 years, the Sweetheart Invitational bowling tournament has brought together gay and straight bowlers alike in the spirit of competition and giving. The event attracts bowlers from all over the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic (including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia), as well as Michigan, Seattle, WA, and Canada.
The tournament – the only internationally-recognized LGBT sporting event in the state of Connecticut – has supported many charities over the years. Since 2009, the Sweetheart Invitational, along with support from our sponsors and bowlers, has donated nearly $80,000 to state and local charities. Recognizing our charity work within Connecticut’s GLBT community, the New Haven Pride Center honored the Sweetheart Invitational with a Dorothy Award in 2013.
The name of the Sweetheart Invitational was inspired by its longstanding tradition of being held each Valentine’s Day weekend. Each year, the tournament utilizes a different theme and modifies its logo to reflect that.
One of the common elements of the logo from year-to-year has been the heart itself, formed by two clasped hands to symbolize unity. In 2017, the theme will be American Horror Story, following Frozen in 2016, Wicked in 2015, Silver Balls in 2014 (celebrating the tournament’s 25th anniversary), My Bloody Valentine in 2013, Peace Love & Bowling in 2012 and Just Married: Marriage is Sweet in All Forms (saluting Connecticut as what was then one of only a handful of states to offer same-sex marriage) in 2011, The Sweetheart 500: Racing for Love (which took place the same weekend as the Daytona 500) in 2010, Leather & Lace (symbolizing the unity of men and women) for the tournament’s 20th anniversary in 2009 and Camp Sweetheart in 2008.
The Sweetheart Invitational generates funds for its charities not only through a portion of the entry fee paid by bowlers, but also through events such as Beer Bashes (held monthly at Chez Est in Hartford), Cosmic Disco Bowling at Wallingford Bowl (home to the tournament), fundraising efforts (such as Yankee Candle sales), business sponsors, program guides, raffle tickets and personal donations.
Beneficiaries of the Sweetheart Invitational have included:
· Our Companions Animal Rescue*
· GLSEN Connecticut
· The New Haven Pride Center*
· The Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective
· True Colors
· AIDS Project New Haven
· Leeway House, New Haven, CT
* current beneficiary