2018-03-23 / Front Page

Checking for Charity set to take the ice March 24

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — The puck is set to drop on the largest fundraising event of the year staged by the South Portland Professional Firefighters Union, pitting city firefighters against South Portland High School alumni in an exhibition hockey match.

The second annual Checking for Charity will also feature the Maine “Has Beens,” a second game with both sides made up of former professional and high level college hockey players, many with local ties.

The first game kicks off at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at the William B. Troubh Ice Arena, located at 225 Park Ave. in Portland, with the Has Beens taking the ice at 6:30 p.m. An after party will be held at Easy Day, 725 Broadway in South Portland, starting at 8 p.m. with the bowling center giving 15 percent of all food, drinks and game revenue to the firefighters.

Last year, the inaugural Checking for Charity raised $6,000 and this year firefighters are hoping to hit $10,000 – all of which is directed back into the community in donations made during the year by the members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1476. Last year, the union’s charitable fund gave more than $20,000 to area organizations including the South Portland Food Cupboard, American Lung and Heart Association, Maine Huts and Trails, Salvation Army, Cancer Community Center, Opportunity Alliance, Boys and Girls Clubs, South Portland Little League and middle school athletic teams, among others.

“This is by far the biggest event we do all year,” said lead organizer, firefighter/ paramedic Mike Norton. “And it’s important to point out that none of the money we raise goes to our members or the fire department’s general fund. It all goes right back out into the community, to groups our members vote to support.”

Firefighter/Paramedic Josh Perry, who also leads the union’s efforts at the annual pond hockey classic tournament in Waterville, said events like that and Checking for Charity are as important for the firefighters as the groups that benefit from the money raised.

“This is a way for us to interact with the public who we normally only see at an emergency scene when they’re having their worst day. And that helps us out, too,” Perry said, “because the stress of the job and the things that we see, it affects us. So, this is just a good way to get together with the people we serve in a fun, relaxing atmosphere.”

Because many firefighters will necessarily remain at city stations on duty during the event, the union hockey team will be augmented by firefighters from other departments, including Lewiston and Old Orchard Beach, as well as by members from South Portland’s own volunteer call companies.

Perry swears none of those roster-fillers are, in fact, ringers brought in to assure victory against the high school alumni. Still, the firefighters might need all the help they can get as the alumni team is set to include powerhouse players like Athletic Director Todd Livingston and high school varsity hockey coach Joe Robinson.

“OK, I don’t know about the first game,” Norton joked, “but the second ‘pro’ game will definitely be a good, fast-paced competitive match.”

Confirmed pro players include former UMaine Black Bear and USM hockey coach Scott Smith, with played for the New York Rangers, as well as former Maine Mariner and Japanese Olympic team member Steve Tsujiura. The puck on the pro game will be dropped by Sybil Riemensnider, retired founder of the South Portland Food Cupboard.

The event, which drew more than 400 people to its inaugural iteration last year, will also feature a silent auction with more than 25 donated items, such as gift cards to local restaurants. One of the auction highlights this year is a pair of antique brass “Kontrol” fire extinguishers.

“Those have gotten more than 3,600 views so far on our Facebook page, more than anything else we’ve ever posted. So, we’re expecting a lot of interest in those,” Norton said on Tuesday.

Doors will open for the event at 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, although those who make a donation of any amount will get a program that qualifies them for any of numerous door prizes.

“It’s a community-based thing – we’ll have Slugger the Sea Dog making the rounds – so, we definitely didn’t want to shut out anyone who wants to bring their kids but can’t afford an admission charge,” Norton said. “We welcome everyone whether they can afford to donate or not. This will definitely be a great community get-together.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@inthesentry.com.

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