Area first responders and medical staffers took to the gridiron in a competition Sunday, not just for glory but also for a cause.
Teams of firefighters, paramedics, police officers, hospital staff and emergency medical services personnel competed in the fourth annual Fire Bowl, a flag football tournament organized by the Cedar Rapids Firefighters Foundation to raise money for local charities.
Sunday’s tournament, held at Coe College’s Clark Field, raised more than $38,000 and marked the launch of Sparky’s Truck, a collaborative effort between St. Luke’s Hospital and the Cedar Rapids Firefighters Foundation. Sparky’s Truck is an effort to raise money to purchase iPads, Kindles, gift cards, and other technology for those in the hospital’s NICU along with pediatric patients and their families. The items will be handed out to patients in a miniature firetruck with a toy dalmatian sitting in the driver’s seat.
“It provides a diversion, something different they can focus on,” said Ann Overton, manager of the pediatric and NICU department. Overton said the goal of the program is to keep families together and help them relax during tough times and long hospital stays.
Sean Beard, Cedar Rapids firefighter and president of the foundation, said the flag football tournament has grown exponentially over the years. Beard said the tournament started out with three teams its first year and on Sunday had 10 teams competing. He said its great to see so many agencies eager to help raise money for a good cause.
“We want to do something for the children of Eastern Iowa and we all love football. It’s a great way to get away from the daily grind and come out and play,” he said.
Jared Gienger,an officer with the Cedar Rapids Police Department, stepped off the field after a merciless 33-0 victory against the Area Ambulance Service team.
“It’s a fun event to get all these agencies together,” the 27-year-old said. Although he was unsure if his team would win the tournament, he said it’s important to participate in the event and support the community.
The Linn County Sheriff’s Office were the tournament’s ultimate victors.
For Beard, he said improving lives in the community is the driving force behind the event and the foundation.
“People realize we do stuff for the community, but our main objective is to give back,” Beard said as he held his 2-year-old son. “It’s kind of natural for us to give back and make Cedar Rapids and Eastern Iowa a better place to live.”