Mitzvot from the heart: Joshua Cole

Joshua Cole (left) is pictured with Jim Donahoe at the bowling alley at the St. Louis VA Medical Complex.  

Joshua Cole, Congregation Shaare Emeth

As Josh was listening to St. Louis Public Radio (90.7 KWMU), a story was featured about a bowling alley at the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Jefferson Barracks. 

The news reporter noted that the bowling alley — a rarity among the nation’s Veterans Affairs hospitals — was in one of 114 buildings slated for demolition as part of a $360 million upgrade to the medical center. The VA agreed to provide space, but not funding, for four bowling lanes in a new rehabilitation complex set to open in 2017.  A group of volunteers, the reporter said, was planning to raise the $500,000 needed to construct and equip the new bowling alley. 

The project, “Bowling for Veterans’ Health,” intrigued Josh, son of Debbie Banashek-Twist and John Twist of West County. Josh felt this was an interesting and worthy cause. 


“Because Josh also enjoys bowling, he could relate to the idea of everyone wanting to be able to participate in this activity,” said his mother. In addition to being available to all veterans, the bowling alley is one of the first places for spinal cord injury patients to begin their reengagement with physical activity.

Josh first met with Jim Donahoe, a member of the project, who gave him a tour of the facility and introduced him to the physical therapists that work with the spinal cord injury veterans. He was able to try bowling in a wheelchair to see what the experience is like for the patients. “I was so impressed with Josh,” said Donahoe. 

On several other occasions, Josh worked directly with the paraplegic and quadriplegic patients in the bowling alley. He assisted the veterans using the adaptive equipment to get their balls down the alley. “I am so proud of Josh,” said Donahoe. “It can be a bit scary when you first see the veterans. But once Josh got out there, he really enjoyed himself.”

A student at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School, Josh also raised money for Bowling for Veterans’ Health. In the D’var Torah he gave at his bar mitzvah, Josh spoke about the project and welcomed donations from his family and friends. He also hosted a fundraiser at the Creve Coeur California Pizza Kitchen. Josh publicized his event to his family, friends and school via flyers, school newspaper and social media. The restaurant then donated 20 percent of sales to customers that mentioned the fundraiser.

Josh raised over $500, including a donation of his own. “I felt good about making a difference,” he said. “More importantly, I really liked visiting the bowling alley. It’s a good place.”

Although Josh is no longer accepting donations, donors may make a contribution through H.E.R.O.E.S Care, a nonprofit that helps military members and their families. The VA is working with this organization in its fundraising efforts. To make a donation or for more information, visit and indicate VA Bowling in the comment box so your donation is directed to the Bowling for Veterans’ Health project.

Mitzvot from the Heart is compiled by Editorial Assistant Elise Krug. To have your child’s mitzvah project featured in Mitzvot from the Heart, contact Elise at 314-743-3671  or [email protected]