Basketball fundraiser becoming an annual community tradition
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Basketball takes center stage in the athletic world during the month of March, both in the high school and college ranks. The game was also the main attraction Friday, March 18, at the Boson Company Fieldhouse at Marshfield High School, but it was neither college nor high school playoffs that a sizable crowd turned out to watch.
Instead, fans cheered on Marshfield Area Special Olympians as they faced the Marshfield Police Department in a basketball scrimmage in what is growing into one of Marshfield’s most fun traditions. The latest scrimmage marked the third year of the event.
Randy Follen, the agency manager for Marshfield Area Special Olympics, said proceeds from concessions, a donation bucket, plus funds donated by the Marshfield Professional Police Association support travel costs, entry fees for competitions, and funds to rent out athletic facilities for the Olympians. Several area businesses also donated gift cards to be raffled off at the event. Follen said the event raised between $2,000 and $2,500 last year and this year’s fundraising was “real close to $2,500.”
Marshfield Area Special Olympians compete in events that span the sporting world from basketball to track and field, flag football, bowling, and much more. Athletes can advance to state competitions if they place well enough in qualifying events, Follen said.
“It’s been growing,” Follen said of the scrimmage pitting the Special Olympians against the police. He added that 24 athletes are out for basketball this season as opposed to 15 the year before.
“They just love to come and play. … If they win the game, it really pumps them up at the end,” Follen said. The Special Olympians did, in fact, win the game. He added that one of the first questions the athletes ask each year is, “When is that game going to be?” Follen is also a coach for one of the Olympic basketball teams, which are split into three units.
Marshfield patrol officer Jamie Kizer helps in coordinating the game for the police department and organizing the event as a whole.
“I’m personally grateful that we have a chief like (Marshfield Police Chief Rick) Gramza that approaches policing in the community policing style. We hope to mold the relationship between the police department and the community so that we present ourselves in a way where we’re approachable,” Kizer said.
“We’re not just robots with a badge. We’re also human beings, and we’re members of the community ourselves,” Kizer added.
Kizer joked that for some officers, the prospect of a full-court basketball game was fear-inducing.
“Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in policing is in the best of shape. Some of them you say, ‘Hey, do you want to play basketball?’ and they run for the hills. That’s when you see them really run,” Kizer said.
Kizer added that overall the police look forward to playing in the game.
“It’s all about giving back, and we all understand that,” Kizer said.