story & photos
by Larry Greene
The Norwich Fire and Police Departments enjoyed some fun and exercise while helping to raise money and awareness for charity. Each of the two emergency services departments fielded a softball team that met on a soggy field at the Otrobando Avenue sports complex in Norwich. Heavy hitting and skilled gloves were provided by both teams, but the police pulled away in the end to win the contest 17-8.
While both teams played with a gusto normally reserved for handling emergencies, the police had an extra incentive to win. A short while ago the fire department beat the Police Department at a fitness challenge. Team manager Ryan Kelsey led the police effort with a couple homeruns and team bragging rights changed hands. That is, until next year.
The event was the brainstorm of John York, assistant store manager, Shop Rite of Norwich, who organized the effort as part of the store’s Partner In Caring charity drive. The charity helps fill the shelves of the Norwich Food Pantry and provides for other hunger relief efforts in the Norwich area.
“I was trying to think out of the box,” said John of his idea for the softball game. “I called the Norwich Police Department and then called the Fire Department and they both got right on board.”
Ken Capano, Jr., whose family owns the Norwich and New London Shop Rite stores, said that the softball game was a great opportunity to increase funding and awareness of the efforts to provide for the community.
“In this economic situation, people are strapped,” said Ken. At all checkout counter in his stores, collection stations are set up for the hunger awareness charity. Every year, Shop Rite holds several food drives. “People can donate time, talent or treasure to support the community,” said Ken.
“This is great,” said Chief Ken Scandariato, Norwich Fire Department, “We work very closely with the police. It’s a good thing when public safety gets together for a fun event rather than a tragic event.”
“Anytime it’s charity, and whenever it’s a good cause, we’re willing come out,” said patrolman John Ley.
Food giant General Mills supplied bags stuffed with drawing materials and reading books, Cheerios, granola bars, and tattoos, which were passed out to children. Alesia Mondello, a retail sales rep with General Mills, explained that the company has partnered with Shop Rite for the ten years that Partner in Caring has existed. “When people buy General Mills foods, General Mills makes a donation to food banks,” she said.
After the softball game, a Homerun Derby was held. With only a couple players tied at one homerun each, fireman Ben deMond stepped up to the plate. The former semi-pro baseball player connected for a homer only once in his first seven swings. The final three swings each resulted in a long ball and deMond became the recipient of a $100 gift certificate to Harp & Dragon Pub on Main Street in Norwich.
By winning the softball game, the Norwich Police Department also won the Mayor’s Challenge Cup. For two years, Norwich Mayor Ben Lathrop raised $19,000. The Mayor was on hand to throw out the first ball and provide some on-the-field umpiring. “We’ve got a great relationship with Shop Rite and the Campano Family,” he said. “I hope this will be an annual event,” said the Mayor. He intends to drum up support for the event and, next year, hold the event at Dodd Stadium.