Between pandemic restrictions that canceled last year’s season and new recruits with little experience in joy, Bishop Ireton’s varsity cheerleaders faced a daunting task when they stepped onto the mat for the Christian Cheerleaders of America Nationals in Fayetteville, North Carolina last month.
It was for a good cause, but the firefighters had bragging rights with a victory.
Against the Fairfax County Police Department last Friday, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Team picked up a 6-2 win at Reston Skatequest. Although the scoreboard doesn’t tell that story, both teams can walk off the ice with their sticks up as they play for a bigger purpose.
The charity-themed exhibition game was to provide donations to RedHelp.org and BlueHelp.org, organizations that provide mental health services and support to first responders.
“We have this event to help break the stigma around suicide and first responder mental health,” said Eric Provo.
Provo contacted Fire Department Lt. Bill Harrington to set up a match between them and the police department and immediately received a yes. Additionally, Harrington contacted FCPD Major Eli Cory and they also agreed to participate in this event.
As a bonus, the head of the losing department would be required to wear the opposing department’s hockey jersey to work on Monday.
“The big winner is the charity,” Harrington said before the game. “The chief of police will be wearing this jersey on Monday morning and it will be fun.”
It turns out that Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis ended up wearing the opposing jersey, this after initially making the friendly bet with Fairfax County Fire Chief John Butler.
FCPD took a 1-0 lead early in the period with just over 11 minutes left in the first half and stayed that way late in 1. Moreover, throughout the first half and early from the second, there were more opportunities for the blue team to take control, as they had several shot attempts.
But, as they do when the fire starts to build, the FCFRD side quickly extinguished chances and gobbled up six goals in a row. Firefighter Wade Munday led the charge, scoring twice in the winning effort, his first goal tied the game and by the end of the second period the firefighters held a 4-1 advantage.
Munday opened the final period with his second goal before firefighter John Kurzinger finished the deal with the sixth and final goal for the red team. sergeant. Nick Salvado cut the deficit to 6-2 with just under five minutes left in the third period, but by then the game was out of control and everyone was playing for pride.
After the match, Cory, though understandably disappointed with the loss, was in high spirits as the true winners of the game were those who would benefit from the public donations and the bond that had grown stronger as a result of this event.
“It brings us together because we all work together and it was a great opportunity for us to strengthen those relationships and do something for a great cause,” Cory said.
Provo says that while this is the first time a hockey game has taken place between the two departments, there is hope to make it an annual event. Additionally, the primary focus is to continue to educate first responder communities about mental health and provide these resources.