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Dad of Oxford's Justin Shilling holding bowling tournaments to raise money for mental health

'Justin's big claim to fame with bowling is that he brought joy to everyone around him when he was bowling.'
Bowling fundraiser for mental health
Posted at 10:04 AM, Apr 16, 2024

WATERFORD, Mich. (WXYZ) — Nonchalantly bowling strikes, having your own bowling shoes, cleaning your ball between throws.

These are all signs of a serious bowler, and Craig Shilling displayed all three when bowling with us at Century Bowl in Waterford.

"There’s so much to bowling," Shilling told us. "You bring your family into the things you enjoy and then you have that time to enjoy them together, and that’s kind of why I brought my kids into it as well."

One of those kids being Justin Shilling, who notoriously bowled a 257 in middle school after walking into a tournament late eating Taco Bell.

The hilarious nature of it made such an impact that Craig Shilling said there's even an award named after the feat now.

"It’s called the Taco Bell award," said Shilling.

Oxford High School bowling coach J.R. Lafnear told us, "Justin's big claim to fame with bowling is that he brought joy to everyone around him when he was bowling."

That includes Justin's dad Craig, who wore his son's bowling jacket when we met with him.

He said Justin got it as a member of the Oxford High School bowling team.

A team that he was on with another Oxford High School student.

One that it is now known struggled with mental health, and had problems that were not properly addressed.

One that on November 30, 2021, took a gun to school and fatally shot four of his classmates, Justin was one of them.

Updated photos: Oxford victims
Oxford victims

"Nobody really knows what to do when you have a hole like this in your life, and you know, you fill it with things that keep you close to your loved ones and that’s what we tried to do," said Shilling.

He's referring to The CHOOCH Foundation, the name of it was written on his shirt at the time.

Shilling said, "It stands for Caring, Helping, Others, Often Creates, Hope."

Shilling said that CHOOCH was Justin's nickname, the CHOOCH non-profit is his way of keeping bright Justin's legacy alive, and this is where things really come full circle.

On April 20, and 21st, the CHOOCH Foundation is inviting community members to Century Bowl in Waterford to take part in bowling tournaments to raise funds for the CHOOCH Foundation.

CHOOCH Foundation Bowling Tournament flyer
CHOOCH Foundation Bowling Tournament flyer

All those funds will go towards the foundation creating free mental health programs in the community.

"Having gone through all this I’ve developed my own issues," said Shilling. "You don’t know how everybody else feels and you don’t know what could happen, and unfortunately what happened to me and my family and others up in Oxford is something that could have been avoided with more attention to that aspect."

Shilling said his ultimate goal for the foundation is to create the attention mental health needs by building the "Chooch Center for Mindfulness," a mental health community center fully staffed with mental health professionals and therapists.

VIDEO: Craig Shilling talks about carrying on Justin's legacy

Craig Shilling shares why he wanted to create a foundation in Justin's memory

A comfort zone available for anyone who may need it at the time.

He said he knows this is an ambitious goal, but believes bowling tournaments, something Justin, the only middle schooler who can bowl a 257 while eating Taco Bell loved, can help make happen.

Shilling said, "That’s one of the things that really hurts me the most, is knowing that he’s not there to have that effect anymore, but I’m happy to slide in there for whatever time I can to help establish a legacy in his name."

The CHOOCH Foundation will have summer fundraisers as well including a DX Gravel Fondo race and fun ride on Saturday, June 8, at American Legion Post 108 in Oxford.

There will also be a Riding with Justin Poker Run on Saturday, August 17 at American Legion Post 108 in Oxford.

You're invited to all events, reach out to contactchooch@thechooch.org for more information.