To most people, Jason Belmonte is known as the kid from Orange who went from his family-owned bowling alley when he was a teenager, to a 13-time PBA champion and world's best bowler 20 years later.
However, in January 2020, Belmonte started making positive headlines in another avenue as the 36-year-old set up a GoFundMe account while he was on tour in the US, pledging to donate $50 to support the Australian bushfires every time he bowled a strike, and $100 every time he bowled a strike during a title match.
The account went from having $50 after he bowled his first strike, to $145,126 USD - just shy of the $150,000 goal he set himself when he kicked off the account.
While Belmonte knew what kind of financial contribution he'd make to the account, he didn't forecast the attention it would receive from American fans and players which according to him, was largely due to the attention the fires received from mainstream media in the US.
"The US media really took the story and latched onto it to spread awareness. That surprised me," Belmonte said.
"I had people at the events coming up to me and asking how they could donate to the account.
"I was relying on my family to give me updates from back in Australia but it was really heavily covered in the states which obviously helped a lot with the donations. My industry really stepped up and I'm proud of it for that."
After converting the money to almost $240,000 AUD, he split the figure into thirds and donated it equally to WIRES Australian Wildlife Rescue, the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Australian Red Cross
Belmonte found it hard deciding which charities should receive the funds and after acknowledging there were multiple parties left struggling after the bushfires, he decided he'd pick three different organisations.
"There were families affected and left without homes, we had firefighters dying in the front line and running out of supplies. There were over a billion animals killed, too," he said.
"I asked myself... how do I help them all? All of those organisations need help so I decided to evenly distribute the money."
While he pulled up a bit short of his $150,000USD goal, Belmonte plans on reaching the goal when the PBA tour resumes but says the biggest challenge he'll face is getting the public to care about something that happened so long ago, especially when there's a new crisis at hand.
"It can be really difficult to keep making people feel aware of the situation. Especially when the new story is a global pandemic," he said.
"I've just got to do my part when we get back out there and that is continue to inform my competitors that it's still going on and as far as I know, a lot of those are still committed to the pledgers they made before the tour was cut short.
"The funds aren't designed to have a ceiling so once we hit the goal, we don't need to stop it. The season's not over yet so even if it's late in the year, I'll still raise the money and pass it into those charities."
For now, Belmonte and his family are waiting out the coronavirus crisis just like everyone else and even though they aren't required to be in lockdown anymore, the kids are still at home for school and mum and dad aren't planning on going anywhere unless absolutely necessary.
"I've got three elderly grandparents and I know there aren't a lot of cases but I'm pretty paranoid about my family so I'm just gonna stay home unless I've got to go somewhere," he said.
"Kimberley and I are listening to the government regulations. We just want to do the right thing and we won't go anywhere unless it's essential or an emergency."
While homeschooling your kids for the first time will always bring its own challenges, Belmonte says the transition has been much easier thanks to the online learning options made available by Nashdale Public School.
"They're going to stay at home for the same period of time that's requested by our government," he said.
"The teachers there have sent a bunch of stuff out for the kids. It's been a huge help."
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