In its first year, Black Diamond Sgt. Brian Lynch recalls that rounding up a group of law enforcement officers to play a game of charity basketball was like pulling teeth.
"I had to beg," he said. Not so much this year as Lynch prepares for the third annual basketball game this Saturday that pits local police personnel against firefighters with proceeds going to support Relay for Life in Enumclaw. "Now, I have a waiting list of officers."
Why's everyone now clamoring to be involved in this event that in the last two years has raised about $15,000 for the American Cancer Society, which benefits from Relay for Life fundraising?
Lynch can't speak for the others. In the last two years, however, he's lost two close friends to cancer, both in the first responders/law enforcement community: Jeffrey Allen Birt, a Seattle firefighter who died in May 2011, and Enumclaw police who died in January 2011.
"We are steeped in the tradition of honoring those that we've lost," Lynch said. "And in the last few years, officers are dying that are still of working age to cancer."
In the fire service, Lynch adds, on-the-job hazards and exposure are also contributing to the early deaths of otherwise young men and women.
Lynch also credits Enumclaw police volunteer Marilyn Hash with igniting the spark for his creating the LawDawgs Relay for Life team along with Enumclaw Police Officer Dustin Lobdell five years ago. Hash is a cancer survivor, having battled five different bouts of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma since her first diagnosis in November 2000. ( from last year's game)
For Saturday's game, nine firefighters from and one from Central Pierce Fire & Rescue will be playing for the SmokeEaters while 10 police personnel representing , Black Diamond, Covington, Kent and Auburn police, and the state Department of Corrections will represent the LawDawgs.
The participants have been practicing for the past month, two and a half hours for two days a week on their own time at Thunder Mountain Middle School in hopes of giving the crowd a good show on top of doing something good.
The SmokeEaters won the first year's game while the LawDawgs exacted revenge last year with a 54-31 win (). Who'll be the victor this year? You'll just have to go and watch the game to find out!
The game takes place at Enumclaw High School on Saturday, May 19. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with tip-off at 7 p.m.
The pipe and drums band Heavy Hammer will play the halftime show which also features a freethrow contest and a raffle for a chance to win four 100-level tickets to a Mariners game or five nights at a condo on Ocean Shores. Raffle tickets are $1 each.
Tickets are $5 per person and can be purchased at the Black Diamond Police Department or contact Lynch at BLynch@police.ci.blackdiamond.wa.us. They will also be available for purchase at the door for the same price.
To make a donation to the LawDawgs Relay for Life team, click here.