By Ben Rodgers
LAWRENCE – Members of area public safety departments will be risking their own personal safety in a charity kickball tournament on Sunday.
The tournament pits members of the Hobart-Lawrence Police Department against Brown County dispatch and the Hobart Fire Department against the Lawrence Fire Department with the winners facing off in the championship.
Even though the championship match has yet to be decided, Lawrence Fire Department Chief Kurt Minten has confidence in his squad.
“We have a few people that do play in kickball league, and our goal is just to go out and have a lot of fun, win, lose or draw,” Minten said. “But I don’t think the cops are going to have a chance.”
When asked why his team will be good enough to blow past the first round and capture the title, Minten said, it’s all about conditioning.
“With how athletic and built we are, we’re all in our prime so we should have no problem dominating the games,” he said.
But more important than winning is raising money for his team’s cause. Each team playing will be raising money for the charity of its choice.
The Lawrence Fire Department is raising funds for the Adam “Peewee” Van Rite Memorial Scholarship.
“Van Rite passed away from cancer in 2009, so we started a scholarship fund,” Minten said. “After two years, we switched it to memorial fund. We are helping firefighters with fundraisers for benefits or medical expenses. We donated to other charities, too.”
The Lawrence Fire Department’s first-round opponent, the Hobart Fire Department said Minten’s confidence is unfounded going into the first match.
“With Hobart’s superior firefighters, nobody else has a chance in this game,” said Jerry Lancelle, department chief.
Lancelle noted his team has even practiced, albeit a year ago.
“That’s how I know we’re going to win because we got practice and experience,” he said.
His department also has another advantage – Lancelle’s players told him he can’t play.
“My guys won’t let me play kickball. They said I’m not good enough to play, so I’m out,” Lancelle said. “I got enough young guys who won’t let me play, so I have to sit on the sidelines and be the coach.”
As for the team’s charity of choice, it decided to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
“We’ve worked with them in the past before and we raised some money for them and they’ve been a very good charity to work with,” Lancelle said. “So the guys picked that charity to work with this time.”
The Hobart-Lawrence Police Department is playing for The Tommy Steinbruecker Memorial.
Steinbruecker was the bassist for the rock group Annex. He died in a motorcycle accident in 2003.
Since then, the fund has been set up to provide children in need with musical instruments.
“I’d like to win some money to put it toward these instruments for these kids, so I do want to win because it will help the memorial,” said Lt. Dan VanLanen, a friend of Steinbruecker.
VanLanen even disclosed his strategy to win kickball games.
“We talked about it,” he said. “We’re going to kick it where they’re not at.”
The fourth and final team is one that public safety workers talk to all the time, but rarely get to see face to face, Brown County Dispatch.
“You might not get to see us, so you don’t understand our abilities,” said Katie Hendrickson, dispatch captain. “Your mind is one of your strongest things in your body, so we got that going for us, you have to know how to think on your feet and we do that everyday.”
Hendrickson said her team is playing for Autism Society of Northeast Wisconsin because it’s a cause important to her and her teammates.
“This one is near and dear to my heart personally, because I have a son who is autistic, and we have a few people in the center who have family members or autistic friends they know.”
The dispatch center also recently completed a document for use by responders to help people with special needs during calls.
“It’s just to alert them if there’s somebody with special needs in the home, and it’s not just austim, it could be somebody who is blind or has cerebral palsy,” Hendrickson said. “Just to let them know there is somebody there who needs an extra helping hand.”
The charity kickball tournament also has more than kickball.
The event features different raffles, booyah for sale, carryout as well, and the opportunity for children to explore a fire truck, squad car, little firefighters water fights, and more.
“It’s going to be a very fun event, and that’s our goal, to make it very fun and competitive,”
Lancelle said. “There’s going to be a lot of talk back and forth, but overall I think it’s going to be a very fun day.”
The games start at noon, Sunday at Quarry Park in Lawrence.