By Cheryl Conway
A charity event that began as a softball game between the hometown police and fire departments in Cedar Grove has grown a decade later into 11 teams from multiple towns competing this year.
The 10th Annual Battle of the Badges is set to be held Sat., Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., at Community Park in Cedar Grove. Featured will be 11 teams from West Essex PBA, Verona PBA, Essex County Sheriff’s Office, and a Non Profit Charity group called Brothers Before Others.
Organized every year, The Battle of the Badges is held to raise money for someone in need and to foster a community relationship. Those who attend the charity softball event also get an up close look at “the finest battle, the bravest.”
More than $20,000 has been raised from the charity event during the last ten years. This year’s goal is to raise $10,000 with proceeds earmarked to offset the costs of a service dog to help an autistic 16-year old Cedar Grove resident.
“This year we are raising money to help the Ribaudo Family of Cedar Grove purchase a service dog for Matthew who is living with Autism Spectrum Disorder,” says Sgt. Jose Rodriguez of the Cedar Grove Police Dept. and organizer of the event. “The service dog will help him tremendously. We are hoping to help put a dent in the cost to purchase and train the dog. Joseph Ribaudo is a retired Cedar Grove Police Officer and I reached out to him to let him know our softball committee wanted to assist him with the purchase of the dog.”
Ribaudo retired in 2010 after serving as a Cedar Grove police officer for 25 years, says Rodriguez.
Each year the committee, with one member from each department, votes on ideas for causes to support.
“We try to do something for someone local, whether an officer or Wounded Warriors Foundation,” says Rodriguez. “If there’s someone in the community, sick child or house fire, we’d say ‘hey, let’s help someone who’s a resident.’ We try to figure out who needs the help. Matt needed a service dog.”
Last year, Battle of the Badges raised $7,000 for the family of a Verona police officer, Ron Thorward, who died from cancer.
Battle of the Badges began in 2006 with the Cedar Grove Police Department playing softball against Cedar Grove Fire.
Rodriguez says, “I thought to raise funds for someone in need and grow more community relations” and to show “the residents that we are normal people.”
The Verona officers then “helped to push it along,” he says, with the Verona police and fire departments joining the competition followed by a North Caldwell team, West Caldwell, Caldwell, Little Falls, Fairfield, Essex County Sheriff’s and Brothers Before Others, a non-profit charity group made up of 4,000 law enforcement active/retired officers from all over the country that provides flowers to every law enforcement funeral.
Brother’s Before Others plans to be bringing players from all over New Jersey as as well as New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and as far as Florida.
“It keeps growing; it’s nice,” says Rodriguez, with $1,000 raised the first year; $1,500 the second year.
Players must be officers of the participating team. There will be 12 to 15 players per team, with one game every hour, one elimination game, as there is just one field designated for the event, says Rodriguez. Expected are close to 300 participants and spectators, he adds.
Each team pays a participation fee; Two Guys T’s in Verona is selling t-shirts with all proceeds going toward the cause. Donation buckets for food will be on site.
Provided will be free burgers and hot dogs, and beverages to all players. The winning trophy that gets passed down every year will be the prize to the team that keeps on winning.
“Next year, we’re going to expand more and get more fields,” says Rodriguez.