Hannah was about to launch her bowling ball when someone shouted from behind at George Pappas' Victory Lanes.
"Gutter!" friend Shaniqua blared.
And into the gutter spiraled Hannah's ball.
Hannah, 15, wasn't shaken for long.
"I will be winning this," she declared, later confiding to me that "confidence means everything."
Hannah, Shaniqua and 22 other youth ages 8 to 18 were special guests of longtime professional bowler George Pappas on Thursday.
The youth receive services at Barium Springs Home for Children, which provides a caring place to live for abused or neglected children, early childhood development for low-income families, counseling services and foster family programs. Barium Springs officials asked that the kids' last names remain confidential.
Pappas treated them to free rounds of bowling, a free chicken and barbecue lunch and $25 Target gift certificates. League bowlers at Victory Lanes contributed $1,300 to the effort.
The Chick-fil-A Santa Cow showed up, as did regular Thursday morning bowler J.C. Harrison in his Santa suit.
"I want a bowling alley," Jaheim, 8, said when Santa asked what he'd like for Christmas.
If Santa can't come through with that, then how about a black bowling ball with flames? Jaheim suggested.
"And I want it to be size 6," he said.
Friend Christopher, 11, said he wanted a laptop.
Pappas has run similar Christmas benefits at his other Charlotte-area bowling alleys. Over 20 years, his Park Lanes in Charlotte has raised money for the Children's Miracle Network and Charlotte Rescue Mission. Bowlers at his Liberty Lanes in Gastonia contributed to the House of Mercy in Belmont this year, which provides a home and specialized care for people with AIDS.
Pappas said it's simply his way as a business owner of giving back to his communities.
Thursday's Christmas benefit was the first at his Victory Lanes. which opened in 2007 off Bluefield Road near Interstate 77 Mooresville Exit 36. Bowlers have also contributed enough toys to the Toys for Tots drive that the large collection box has been emptied three times, Pappas said.
"It's part of our civic duty to help out," said Pappas, a Charlottean inducted into the Professional Bowling Association Hall of Fame in 1986.
On Thursday, he gave only words of encouragement to his young guests.
"You had two good shots the last two times," Pappas told Jaheim. "Keep it up."
Christmas can be a time when some of the kids at Barium Springs act up, "because many of them don't get much," said John Hawkins, a Barium Springs program manager. "So events like this, where it gets them out, where they eat food, play games, are just a great experience."