Teams Play. Community Wins.
Exhibition games help victims of fire disasters
Firefighters and police officers hit the basketball court June 26 for charity.
Those who attended the free event at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy were encouraged to bring donations – everything from toiletries to canned goods – to support a new Winston-Salem Fire Department initiative that helps local families displaced by fires.
City fire stations also accepted donations in the weeks prior to the game.
The competition had elements of big sporting events. The Winston-Salem Fire Department team made an NBA-style entrance. As music played, the players ran into the gym through a haze produced by a smoke machine. They were led by the WSFD mascot, Sparky. Standup comedian and 102 Jamz personality B Daht served as master of ceremonies. During intermissions, there was a hot wing eating contest sponsored by Wing Zone, a half-court shooting contest sponsored by Team B.O.N.D. AAU and a free-throw/ lay-up relay organized by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Firefighters’ Burned Children’s Fund. City Council members Derwin Montgomery and James Taylor also brought greetings.
The basketball teams of the WSFD and Winston-Salem Police Department have faced off for friendly competitions for charity events in the past.
Police Sgt. William Penn Jr. said that the games not only help good causes but to also allow the community see a different side of police officers.
“They get to see that we’re just like them. We like to have fun; we like to participate in games,” said Penn, who has played on the WSPD’s team for four years.
Assistant Fire Chief Freddie Broome is the general manager of the WSFD team. The firefighters don’t get together to practice and hadn’t played together since an AIDS awareness game late last year, but the team managed to shake off the rust to beat the cops 44-37.
The team’s victory set up a second game against the Winston-Salem Lady WarCats, a local semi-pro basketball team that plays in the Carolina Conference of the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League. The firefighters gave the lady ballers a run for their money, but the WarCats won 59-54.
Toccara Tatum, WSFD senior community educator and the owner of the WarCats, said the double header was a unique way to tout After the Fire, a new Winston-Salem Fire Department program that provides for the basic needs of fire-displaced families. According to the WSFD, there were 59 households displaced by fire in the last 12 months.
“What we decided to do was try to put something together where we could receive a lot of (donations) up front,” said Tatum.
In addition to donations from the public, the Walmart on Kester Mill Road pitched in, donating seven boxes of clothing and two bicycles.
While the Red Cross of Northwest North Carolina provides fire victims with temporary shelter, there is little assistance to help them secure some of the items they lost. After the Fire aims to help them by providing some of those basic needs.
“(Firefighters are) with you at the time of need, so we want to be with you through the whole process,” said Broome.
The program also featured an educational component. Bolton Elementary School students created boxes touting fire prevention and safety tips that were to be used as donation bins. However, WSFD officials were so impressed by the boxes, they were instead used as educational displays at the game.