By Lisa McNamara
Officers from Caldwell, Fairfield, North Caldwell and Essex Fells police departments score big for Special Olympics New Jersey by raising funds to participate in the New York Giants Snow Bowl at MetLife Stadium on March 23-25.
The Snow Bowl is a charity flag football tournament played at the stadium with more than 160 teams of police officers and firefighters facing off against each other during the three-day event on the same field as the Giants, but most would say the real thrill comes from competing to benefit more than 25,000 Special Olympics athletes in N.J.
The highlight of the event for Caldwell Detective Matthew DeAngelo is the opportunity to interact with Eric Kish, a Special Olympic athlete, each year. Kish “is on the field and runs some plays,” says DeAngelo, “and he’s taken a liking to us. We give him one of our uniforms every year.”
This year marks Caldwell PD’s fourth appearance at the event, and over the past three years, they have raised $17,611 for the cause. According to DeAngelo, the Caldwell PD finished ninth out of 156 teams for raising money and was awarded the Touchdown Trophy from the Special Olympics N.J. Committee for being one of the top fundraisers. The team of 15 officers hopes to reach its goal of $10,000 this year, and as of March 9, has collected $9,300.
“Being able to give back to such a great organization is why we became involved,” says North Caldwell Police Officer Travis Ruffo, and this will be its fifth year playing in the Snow Bowl. The team of 15 officers, 14 from North Caldwell and one from Essex Fells, has collected $3,866. “Getting to know the athletes from the Special Olympics has been truly rewarding and raising money for them is why we continue to partake in this event,” adds Ruffo.
For the first time, Fairfield Police Department will join in the action, but they are already “hoping to continue the tradition,” says Christopher Hlubik, Fairfield police officer. Hlubik always wanted to participate in the Snow Bowl and “decided to make it happen.” He sent out an email and 14 officers signed up for the tournament. Each player must create their own Snow Bowl webpage to raise money, and each team is required to donate a minimum of $2,400. Hlubik created the Fairfield team’s main webpage, and team “Fairfield’s Finest” has collected $3,200 so far.
“We’re just excited to be playing for the first time,” he says. The department has been supporting Special Olympics with Detective Robert Sanger’s Plane Pull for the past 10 years “which has raised tens of thousands of dollars, and the Snow Bowl is one more thing we’re doing to help out,” he adds.
The Giants Snow Bowl is just one more way police officers are teaming up to score big for charity. Their participation has helped the hosts, New York Giants, Special Olympics N.J. and MetLife Stadium, raise more than $470,000 for the cause. To support them in reaching their goal of $600,000 or to find out more, visit the police departments’ websites.