Red Lion resident Lisa Barshinger took her 4-year-old son bowling for the first time on Thursday, and he loved it so much, she brought him back just one day later.

And she had no reason not to, considering all four games for young Carter Barshinger at Suburban Bowlerama were free.

Suburban Bowlerama is one of six York County locations participating in the summer-long Kids Bowl Free program that allows registered children to play two free games every day.

Jim Plessinger, owner of the York Township alley, said Suburban Bowlerama has participated in the program for five or six years, and it typically has about 1,000 kids signed up each summer.

Plessinger was naturally hesitant about giving something away for free, but he said sales at his business have grown each year since the program was implemented.

Kids Bowl Free requires parents to provide their email addresses and children's birthday when they sign up, which Plessinger said allows him to add more people to the database and inform them when other events or specials are occurring throughout the year.

Many families also end up spending money, he said, because they sometimes purchase food at the snack bar or bowl more than two games.

Sean Lemmon, manager of Laser Alleys in Springettsbury Township, which also participates, said the biggest advantage of the program has been introducing more children to bowling.

"They develop a love of the sport," Lemmon said, adding that Kids Bowl Free has increased participation in the alley's youth bowling leagues. "It's an awesome introduction."

Plessinger said bowling also offers parents a fun activity to participate in with their children.

"If a kid is on a baseball team, Mom can take him and watch, but she's not out there playing with him," he said. "Plus, you don't have to be a great athlete to have fun bowling."

Part of the Kids Bowl Free program is the option of selecting a Family Pass, which allows adults to pay a one-time fee to be included in the two games per day with their children.

Costs, times and dates of participation vary depending on the alley.

York Township's Liz Arbittier said she has taken advantage of the program with her children for about five years.

"It's provided a great place for them to come on a hot day," she said, adding they'll often come three times a week. "It gave them some goal to work toward in a sport."

Arbittier said she and her 12-year-old son, Jonathan, have both improved from aiming for scores near 80 to aiming for scores near 130.

The other York County alleys participating are Colony Park Lanes North, Lion Bowling Center, Hanover Bowling Centre and South Hanover Lanes.

Kids Bowl Free is one of numerous programs that provide York County children with free or low-cost activities this summer. The list includes:

  • Free tennis lessons for kids, ages 7 through 16, at various locations via Tennis for Kids
  • Free movie showings featuring family-friendly films at Frank Theatres in the Queensgate Shopping Center at 10 a.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until Aug. 4 and every Wednesday night at Kiwanis Lake until July 27
  • Free dance camp July 12-15, 19-22 and 26-29 at Martin Library through York County Libraries and Positive Energy Arts Foundation
  • Free outdoor performances of Shakespeare's "As You Like It" from Theatre Under the Trees at various times and locations July 22-31

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.

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