Suffolk Police vs. Fire for March of Dimes

Published 10:35 pm Friday, April 16, 2010

Suffolk police officers and fire and rescue personnel team up all the time on important, even life-saving, matters.

Saturday at Peanut Park, the Suffolk Police Department and the Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue will face each other as opponents on a softball field. Even while getting the chance to relax and play a game on a spring morning, they will still be on the same team and still be doing life-saving work.

Last spring, Erin Hughes, an emergency communications operator for the SPD, and her husband organized the first fire department versus police department softball tournament to raise money for the March of Dimes.

The inspiration was their daughter Virginia. Virginia was born 17 weeks premature.

“She weighed less than one pound when she was born,” Erin said. Mother and daughter wound up being fine and Erin credits the research made possible through the March of Dimes.

Virginia is four years old now and “you’d never know she was born premature. She’s perfectly healthy,” Erin said.

The Hughes came up with the idea of a softball game and found out it was a great connection in more ways than one.

First, the fire department already had a softball team playing in a local league.

More importantly, there were a lot of folks in both departments who thought the idea and the charity were great.

“When we said, ‘we want to do this for March of Dimes’ others said they’ve seen the good things they do for their family and friends, so it turned out to be easy to get people involved,” Hughes said.

The tournament, a three-game series between the two teams, is set to start at 10 a.m. Saturday at Peanut Park, on Carolina Rd. Each game will take about an hour. There’s no cost for admission, but donations will be gladly accepted.

Everyone at Peanut Park will be able to register for next Saturday’s March of Dimes March for Babies walk at Constant’s Wharf. The five-mile walk starts April 24 at 9 a.m. and raises money for the Greater Hampton Roads Division of March of Dimes.

“Funds go to research to help prevent premature births and infant mortality,” Hughes said.

Local firefighter and police unions are donating money this year. “That alone almost equals what the tournament raised last year,” Hughes said. “It’s really exciting to see a lot more support as we grow. Hopefully, soon we’ll be able to invite other cities and make this a much bigger event.”

While the softball is all for a good cause and for fun, it’s already competitive in the tournament’s second year.

With the experience advantage, Fire and Rescue took the inaugural title.

“There’s a trophy and bragging rights,” Hughes said. “Egos really come into play there.”

Two special guests will be big parts of the tournament as well.

Four-year-old Callen Pabis will throw the first pitch to start the tournament. In June 2009, Callen and her family had their home on Franklin St. burned down in a fire that destroyed three homes. Callen was also a premature baby, born 16 weeks early.

Virginia will conclude the tournament by presenting the trophy to the winning team.