If you thought downtown L.A. smelled uncharacteristically delicious on June 5th, that’s because the annual Hope for Firefighters event packed the pavement and plaza outside 333 Hope St., filling the area with people, music, family fun and the enticing aroma of amazing food, all to raise money for the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund. Of the event and its connection with the charity, Hope Committee Co-Chair Steve Robinson said, “Relationships come and go, but being with a particular organization and seeing the rewards that our efforts bring . . . I am just flabbergasted at what [the charity] does with the money we raise.” And from a particularly heated Muster Games competition to an appearance by Ron Burgundy, it seems this year’s installment—the 17th year—was a massive success.
Things kicked off with a rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” by talented vocalist Lea Carranza and a flyover by LAFD Air Ops helicopters. Captain Steve Ruda and new event emcee KTLA’s Mary Beth McDade kept the show moving along with Hope Committee co-chairs Heather Ross and Robinson. And what a show it was.
Whatever your preference, the firefighters and sponsors offered an incredible menu or culinary wonders. Station 109 (sponsored by Operating Engineers Local 501) beckoned folks with sausage sandwiches, Fire Station 61 (sponsored by Peerless Building Maintenance) made mouths water with orange chicken, Station 50 (sponsored by Red Hawk Fire & Security) enticed attendees with carne asada fries, and Fire Station 9 (sponsored by Cooperative of American Physicians) made stomach rumble with tri-tip, just to name a few.
A panel of celebrity judges sampled each dish. All stations hoped to land one of the three prizes for the event and, once again, Station 88 (sponsored by American Technologies, Inc.) proved the champs for both Best Entrée for their pulled pork sandwiches with mac & cheese and cole slaw, and Best Theme for their Anchorman-inspired booth. This marks the second year 88’s has won those titles and their third consecutive win for Best Theme. Taking home the prize for Best Dessert was Fire Prevention Bureau – Harbor (sponsored by TRL Systems, Inc.) for their refreshing Snow Cones.
And while the stations duked it out for the awards and bragging rights, sponsor teams went head-to-head in the firefighter style Muster Games. Some teams were made up of competition veterans and others counted only newbies among their ranks. But, when the stopwatch clicked on, they all did their best in the three events: the Hose Cart, the Bucket Brigade, and the Suit-Up and Life Net. In an unprecedented result, Brookfield won both first and third place thanks to their two Muster Teams. L.A. Galaxy nabbed second place and Cal Hospital Med Foundation landed the fourth place prize.
For Brookfield Muster Team member Adam Smith, being a part of Hope as a longtime sponsor provides a fun perspective. He said, “It’s pretty nice to do it year-to-year. You get the feel and the depth of [the event].”
Of course, the food booths and sponsors’ Muster Teams weren’t the only way the event raised money for Widows & Orphans. The popular Firefighter Photo Booth, where the public could get their photo taken with a real firefighter, stayed busy all day. And the silent auction and raffle, which included a set of tickets donated by Alaska Airlines, helped bring the total even higher.
Jeff Etherington, the airline’s Director of Sales & Community Marketing, said, “Alaska likes to get involved with the communities where we have service and it’s a great organization that we’ve identified with. We have a lot of employees that have family and friends that are in the firefighter organization, so it was a natural fit for us.”
In fact, all of the sponsors—such as Universal Protection Service, CBRE Global Investors, IBEW Local 11—feel the same gratification and connection with the event. Senior Vice President of presenting sponsor US Bank, Wendy Waldron, said, “This is something that we’re very proud to sponsor every year.”
And thanks to those supporters, donors and volunteers, the event once again left attendees smiling and satisfied—all in the name of helping firefighters and their families. We’re already looking forward to the games, music and especially the food at next year’s Hope.
By David Vienna
Anatomy of a Winner
When it comes to landing in the winner’s circle at the Hope for Firefighters event, Station 88 has been killing it. They nabbed the Best Theme award a stunning three years in a row. And according to Firefighter Brett Porter, that’s no coincidence. “The better we make [the booth] look, the more people see it,” he said.
While the guys at 88’s certainly enjoy the good-natured competition, they really do it for Widows & Orphans. That sentiment is echoed by Relief Trustee Steve Berkery, who said, “Obviously, it all comes down to benefitting the charity.”
For this year’s theme, Anchorman, 88’s constructed a booth that looked like a television news studio, complete with rotating “On Air” light. To seal the victory, firefighters staffing the booth dressed as characters from the film and mingled with the crowd, encouraging them to line up and try the pulled pork sandwiches. “I can’t tell you how many people I posed with for photos,” he said.
While some stations go with jokes or messaging only firefighters will get, 88’s tries to pick themes that the non-firefighting public attending Hope will enjoy. They previously won with an Animal House theme in 2012 and a Duck Dynasty theme in 2013. (The former even included actual Animal House cast member Stephen Furst aka “Flounder”).
Porter’s eclectic background helps keep the ideas flowing and the commitment high. When he was younger, he started a skate company with his father and visited trade and skate shows where companies constructed elaborate displays to grab attention. He felt particularly inspired by the efforts of Volcom, a youth oriented lifestyle brand. “Those guys had it,” he said of their talent for creating entertaining booths.
Plus, his time in the Air Force and at MTV, where he worked in casting, helped train him to work well under pressure. That’s how 88’s was able to construct the Anchorman booth in just three days and even drum up extra supplies. In addition to generous support from American Technologies, Firefighter/Paramedic Mike Finger sought out other donations to make sure they had more than enough food and to offset construction costs. Porter said, “A lot of favors were called in to get it done.”
On top of all of this, 88’s also won Best Entrée two years in a row for their pulled pork BBQ sandwich. They haven’t picked a theme or a dish for next year yet, but they plan on keeping the same level of showmanship. They hope their winning streak ups the competitive spirit at other stations the same way their friendly battle with 39’s forced them to take their themes up a notch. And even if another station takes home the prize next year, Porter’s just happy that it will all ultimately help the Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firemen’s Fund.
By David Vienna
Check out more photos from this great event by clicking here!