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Kids win when police, firefighters clash

Published Dec. 1, 2006

The boys in blue hope to reclaim what they lost in last year's Badge Bowl.

But their opponents won't give up without a fight.

Both teams will have to rely solely on speed and agility, because no hoses or handcuffs will be allowed in this annual game of flag football between the Tampa Police Gladiators and the Tampa Fire and Rescue Firestorms.

"It's not like it's just a football game," said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis. With last year being the first win ever for the Firestorms, Davis admits that a playful rivalry does exist.

But these guys aren't just playing for the coveted Badge Bowl Championship title. Their main goal is to raise money for families of children with cancer.

This year's guest of honor is second-grader Jimmy Reichert, who was diagnosed with leukemia in March 2003.

What's different about this fundraiser, said Davis, is that people "actually have the opportunity to see where their money is going, to see this child's face, and it makes every minute you've spent collecting every dollar so worthwhile."

Wharton High School will be transformed into what firefighter Michael Pease calls "a carnival-type atmosphere," with a real fire truck for kids to climb on, police cars and other equipment.

There will be a rock-climbing wall and a dunk tank, plus a moon walk and other games.

Mayor Pam Iorio will be present, and at 6 p.m. she'll say a few words in honor of Jimmy.

Then at 6:55 p.m., a Tampa police helicopter will drop off the game ball, just in time for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Pease and Tampa police Maj. John Bennett started the annual Badge Bowl five years ago.

Pease was a coach at the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association.

When he learned that a child in the association had cancer, he and Bennett decided to organize a fundraiser to help support the family. Last year's Badge Bowl raised more than $31,000.

Pease said many people may not understand how cancer can financially devastate a family.

Insurance can cover medical treatment, he said, but it doesn't pay for things that treatment often requires, such as travel expenses.

Fifty percent of all proceeds will be put in a secure account for the Reichert family, and 25 percent will go to the Children's Cancer Center. The rest will remain with the Foundation of Courage, a nonprofit organization that supports children with cancer. That money will be used throughout the year to help other families in need.

Erika Vidal can be reached at or (813) 226-3339.

if you go

Badge Bowl V

The doors to Badge Bowl V open Saturday at 5 p.m. at Wharton High School at 20150 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Admission is $5 for adults, $1 for kids. The flag football game begins at 7 p.m. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. All proceeds will benefit the Reichert family, the Foundation of Courage and the Children's Cancer Center. For more information, call (813) 994-2300 or visit