By Brandon HENSLEY
Near the end of the first half of the charity basketball game between the Glendale firefighters and the Glendale police on March 26, a little boy in the stands turned to his mom and asked which team was winning.
“The firemen are winning,” the mother said.
“But why?” cried the boy. “I want to the police to win.”
The firefighters went to dominate the game in every phase, winning 102-73, but that wasn’t the important part.
Everyone was a winner on this day, because it was the first annual Hoop Heroes charity basketball game held between the two Glendale departments, which supported the Salvation Army’s after school program for at-risk youth.
Fans who attended paid $5 and donated canned goods to the Army’s pantry.
Rio Ray, captain of the Glendale Salvation Army, said the game was mostly the idea of Fire Chief Harold Scoggins.
“We wanted some kind of basketball tournament and he said, ‘Well why don’t we do a police vs. firemen [game],’” Ray said. “It’s really his brainchild.”
“We were looking for ways to raise money for the Salvation Army,” said Scoggins, who coached the firefighter’s team. “A lot of nonprofit [organizations] are having difficult times and this is a way for us to help.”
Ray said the after school program, called The Zone, targets kids ages 8 to 13. There, a program called DORA (Diagnostic Online Reading Assessment) helps kids to achieve better literacy rates.
It was so successful during the first quarter of this school year, Ray said 70% of the kids in the program went up a grade level in their literacy. The Salvation Army also has courses that teach manners and etiquette, and there is also a good sportsmanship workshop.
“They can get homework help and have a safe place to be Monday through Friday throughout the week,” Ray said.
The game was all in good fun, but nonetheless, the firefighters displayed good sportsmanship of their own during the contest. The firefighters were too tall and too physical. It was 51-28 at halftime.
During the pregame layup lines, Scoggins looked over at his team, and said, “I think our team is looking pretty good.”
“Most firefighters are pretty good athletes,” he added.
The game was promoted a month ahead of time, and organizers would like to see it be held every year, and hope more people show up. The stands were about half full this year.
“Hopefully we can keep this tradition going and eventually fill up all the bleachers but the money’s going to after school programs to keep kids off the street,” said Scoggins. “People donate canned food and they really need it in their pantry so that’s another big deal.
“The Salvation Army does so much for the community and there are so many programs and any way that we can help with these programs is going to be a good thing.”
Ray was happy for the support considering this was the first year for the game.
“It really shows what kinds of community we’re in and that people care and want to make a difference,” he said. “We really appreciate our heroes and what they’re doing for the Salvation Army and for our community in general.”
Just as long as they keep their day job.