Marble tourney to benefit military

La Jolla Presbyterian Church and Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 472 are sponsoring a day of nostalgia with a full day of marble tournament games May 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Children and adults are invited to challenge other players in a traditional game of Ringer. For kids 5 to 15, the entry fee is a donation in any amount; for those over 16, a minimum donation of $5 is requested. The tournament will be held in the church’s Life Center, 7715 Draper Ave.

All players will receive a bag of marbles.

Lowell Smith, a longtime member of La Jolla Presbyterian Church and marble maven, was instrumental in helping Don Leavitt of the Vietnam Veterans of America organization develop the fund-raiser. Proceeds will benefit Operation Homefront.

Founded in 2001, Operation Homefront provides emergency assistance and support to military servicemembers, their families and wounded warriors.

“What we wanted to do was (support) something that could be utilized by local military and their families,” Leavitt said.

An old jar of marbles at a local flea market reminded Leavitt, 72, of fond childhood memories of playing marbles with his friends and siblings. He became intrigued with the possibility of sharing that magic with other generations, and from that idea came the inspiration to play for a purpose.

He eventually connected with Smith, who, in 1994, organized marble play through more than 20 of the city’s parks and recreation centers as a way to bring fun back to families.

Smith helped organize the event and provided the equipment, three-foot circular mats he makes himself out of thigh rubber covered with felt.

“It means a tremendous amount to me because I’m a Korean vet,” Smith said.

Tournaments like the upcoming event in La Jolla have already been held in Escondido and at the Veterans Memorial Center Museum in Balboa Park. In addition, championship tournaments have been scheduled during the San Diego County Fair. The final tournament will be held July 4.

“Originally I was kind of shooting for a couple thousand dollars,” Leavitt said. “We may be able to go well over that amount. The nostalgia, as well as our efforts to support these people who are truly fighting for our very freedoms, for me, it gives my life a focus.”

Registration begins at 9 a.m. on May 24. For more information, call Lowell Smith at (619) 276-4163.