The North American Ancient Order of Hibernians, or AOH, was founded in New York City in 1836. Today, hundreds of divisions connect the fraternity of Catholic Irish Americans.
One of the major goals is to give back to their communities, and one of AOH Savannah's favorite fundraisers of the year is their Irish Road Bowling Tournament, open to men, women and children of all ages and cultures.
Like the AOH itself, Irish road bowling has hundreds of years of history in Irish culture, and tying the two together makes for a fun day for both the AOH members putting on the tournament and those who participant in this public event.
To play, teams of three take turns hurling a 28-ounce steel ball around the track at Hutchinson Island behind The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. The goal? To get to the finish line - located two miles from the start - in as few throws as possible. The current course record is 19 throws, but that could be broken March 22.
The first road bowling tournament in Savannah took place in 2006.
"We were looking to create a fundraiser that wasn't a golf tournament," Chris Hagan, former AOH president, explains.
Turning to one of the world's oldest sports was a no-brainer, especially in light of the successes from other Irish road bowling events in Ireland, W. Va., starting in 1995.
George Beckett, the current president of AOH Savannah, says that starting in 2010, the funds from the tournaments took on a purpose close to their hearts.
"Upon the closing of St. Mary's Home, we decided that we will have an essay contest among the Catholic schools in Savannah and give scholarships from the proceeds of the tournament. One-hundred percent goes back to the community," Beckett says. "Our time and our efforts are for the greater good of the city."
"We want road bowling to be something in the Savannah calendars that everyone can appreciate, while participating in part of Irish Culture.
"There's already a rich Irish history here, and this is a way to tie into that connection and use it to help those in need," says vice president of AOH Savannah, Brian Crowley.
Of course, making sure everyone who participates has a great time is high on their agenda.
"It's nice to see whole families and people from all over the country get together for this event. Camaraderie is very important to our organization," says Dennis O'Brien, AOH member.
The sport and the event have proven popular for AOH Savannah.
"It's our largest fundraiser in recent years," Beckett says. Other annual events include the Savannah Irish Festival and Turkey Trot. These and other events have given AOH Savannah the means to contribute to The United Way, Fresh Air Homes for Children, Wilmington Wishes and Frank C. Callen Boys & Girls Club, among others.
To find out more about registering your team, becoming a sponsor or becoming an AOH Savannah member, go to www.aohsavannah.com.