When Whidbey cops face off against island firefighters in a fundraising basketball match next Saturday, it will all be in good fun.
Jerry Helm, a Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue firefighter and one of the event organizers, said the rivalry between the two groups of heroes is largely imaginary, especially on Whidbey.
Spectators probably won’t see a lot of hugs or pats on the bum between opposing team members, but there won’t be any brawling either.
“It’s really all in good fun,” Helm said. “I think it’s going to be good.”
As for the cops, well, they might be looking at things a little differently. They plan to show up with their game faces on and ready to do battle.
“We’re bringing the big guns to the game,” laughed Island County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Garden.
“I think it’s going to be an all-out war, but I think the cops will come out on top,” he said.
The event, dubbed Guns Vs. Hoses, is being thrown as a benefit for Coupeville Living Hope Foursquare Church Pastor Garrett Arnold and his family. Arnold was severely injured in a tragic accident this past August. He fell from an embankment and was paralyzed from the chest down.
Helm said 100 percent of the proceeds of the game will go to the Arnold family. The event begins 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, and will be held in the Coupeville High School gym.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students and children under 10 are free. A $5 discount is given with any canned food donation.
Arnold’s wife, Sylvia Arnold, called the event a “hoot” and extended her thanks to organizers.
They are struggling to buy a larger vehicle and the proceeds from the game will help a lot.
“I love this community,” Sylvia Arnold said. “As soon as you think they couldn’t give any more, they come up with something else.”
She said she’s not yet sure whether Garrett Arnold will be able to attend, but she assured that if he can’t come, he will be cheering from home.
“He’s a sports fan so this cracks him up,” she said.
Multiple agencies are expected to participate in the game. The Oak Harbor Fire Department will be joining Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue and the Oak Harbor Police Department is teaming up with the Sheriff’s Office.
Helm is the brainchild behind the event.
He pitched the idea to the church and it was agreed Living Hope would co-sponsor the game with fire district’s Whidbey Island Professional Firefighters, Local 4299.
Inspired by the Oak Harbor Donkey Basketball games of the past, annual matches in which firemen and cops battled it out aboard donkeys, Helm said this was a good way to bring the community together and help out one of its most valued leaders.
Helm is a member of the church and Garrett Arnold married him and his wife years ago.
“It’s something special for a friend,” he said.
Arnold has earned the respect of police as well. According to Garden, he spent a lot of time before his accident helping a former deputy in the Coupeville Marshal’s Office who was suffering from health issues.
“He’s been very friendly to law enforcement,” Garden said.
Helm said he hopes the event will become an annual fundraiser and will give birth to a food drive.
The fire district usually hold a small internal food drive, just among guild members, and this seemed like a good opportunity to build on that, he said.