They spend every moment of every day working toward a common cause of public safety, but once a year the Maitland Fire and Police departments face off in some friendly schoolyard competition for another cause. It’s time again this Sunday for the Friends of First Response annual kickball tournament pitting cops versus firefighters.
Five years into the event, which raises money for the Friends of First Response to fund needs of the first responders that don’t fit into the city’s budget, the firefighters are looking to continue their winning streak, while the police department tries to break its losing record.
“Fire always wins,” Fire Chief Kim Neisler is cheerfully quick to boast. While Police Chief Doug Ball flatly admits, “We always lose.”
Festivities for the fifth annual Friends of First Response kickball tournament will kick off at 1:15 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at Keller Field in Maitland. Contact Mark Round at [email protected] for more information.
Their competition on May 19 exists beyond only each other, with teams frequently formed from the Maitland Rotary Club and local citizen groups who come out to kick the ball around for a good cause. The kickball tournament serves as the Friends of First Response’s primary yearly fundraiser, helping the group raise money to help out the police and fire departments in anyway they can, said event and Friends of First Response organizer Mark Round.
“It’s to raise funds every year for first responders to cover needs from furniture to personal crisis issues – for things the city doesn’t have the funds to do for them,” said Round, husband of Maitland City Councilwoman and Friends of First Response founder Linda Frosch.
The first year the funds went to purchasing dress blues for the firefighters, and in years since have funded the purchase of furniture for the new police station break room, the painting of the Sept. 11 mural at the new fire station, and durable reclining chairs for firefighters at the station on the job.
“None of that would have been possible without Friends of First Response,” Chief Neisler said. “They’re always looking for ways to augment the services we provide, things the regular budget can’t afford.”
The public is invited to participate in Sunday’s event on the field or off, for what Chief Ball said is always a day of fun and community camaraderie with a hint of competition.
“It’s something that builds a little camaraderie and gives the officers an opportunity to interact with citizens and just get out there and have fun and play,” Ball said.
“And who knows,” he added, “we might win one sometime.”