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Firefighters to defend title against police


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Breaking away: Firefighter Jerry Whitaker (right) gets past law enforcement's Richard Vanosdal during the annual Finest vs. Bravest flag football game at G-CHS. Last year's game came down to the last play with the firefighters winning, 38-35.
Breaking away: Firefighter Jerry Whitaker (right) gets past law enforcement's Richard Vanosdal during the annual Finest vs. Bravest flag football game at G-CHS. Last year's game came down to the last play with the firefighters winning, 38-35.


GREENFIELD — The Finest vs. Bravest traveling trophy is currently sitting on the front desk at Station 21 of the Greenfield Fire Department – and firefighters there hope that’s where it will stay.

Area police and firefighters will go head-to-head Saturday in their annual flag football game for charity. A victory wins them not only bragging rights for the year but that trophy, a helmet sitting on the head of a disembodied mannequin.

Each fall, local public safety officials are pitted against one another on the Greenfield-Central High School football field in hopes of raising money from ticket sales, which are $3, and free-will donations to support an area charity.

With the exception of the 2007 game and last year’s game, police officers have triumphed over the firefighters every year.

Saturday marks the eighth annual event, which will benefit the newly opened Mike B. Center, a referral agency for teens and young adults struggling with substance abuse.

Beneficiaries in the past include the People’s Burn Foundation, Boys and Girls Clubs of Hancock County and the medical fund of an ailing firefighter who was battling cancer.

Each year, organizers work to find local causes to which they can donate the proceeds, Greenfield firefighter Jeff Dixon said.

Dixon has been playing on the firefighter team since the event’s inception and helping organize for the past five years.

“It’s just a fun atmosphere, and you get to watch the police and the firefighters go at it on the field,” he said.

And go at it, they do – with sometimes a little more contact than is typically found in a flag football game. In 2009, one volunteer firefighter suffered a broken nose after catching an elbow during a play.

Returning funds raised at the event to the community where it’s held has always been a goal of the event, Dixon said. The game usually brings in about $1,000.

“We represent these people,” he said. “Obviously, we would like to give back what we can to the people and keep it local.”

Greenfield Police Chief John Jester assures the public is in for a good show, regardless of who wins the game.

“It’s for fun, but there’s some very competitive guys on both the police department and the fire department,” he said. “It usually turns out to be a great time, and you usually get to see some guys who think they’re athletes when they’re really not.”

Richalle Turner, president of the Mike B. Center and mother of the late Michael Barton, for whom the center is named, said she is overwhelmed by the community’s generosity.

“It gives me goose bumps every time I think about it,” she said. “I’m grateful for anyone who wants to give and help.”

The center, which is staffed by volunteers and dependent upon donations, has referred only 19 people to area services since its opening in June, but Turner said she is not deterred by the slow start.

“I want it to be bigger than what it is, but I know all things take time,” Turner said. “I just hope it’s going to be a good resource for Hancock County. So far, so good. Hope it’s going to stay that way.”

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