On one night a year, local police officers and teachers gather to face off in a game of basketball.
And while the game might be a competitive one, players on both teams are there to raise money for a good cause.
“It’s not just about a basketball game, but about several communities coming together,” said Baron Coleman, a teacher at Lakes High School in Lakewood.
It’s not just about a basketball game, but about several communities coming together.
Baron Coleman, teacher at Lakes High School
It’s the annual Cops vs. Teachers Charity Basketball Game, which was created by Coleman in 2009 in response to four Lakewood officers killed in the line of duty. Coleman, a teacher at Ferrucci Junior High at the time, was advisor of the Community Service/Builder’s Club and said the students came up with the idea.
“We thought about what can we do for these families,” Coleman said.
Every year after the first, the funds went toward a student facing a serious illness or to local organizations. But this year, for its eighth annual game put together by the Lakes High School Key Club and Kiwanis Club of Clover Park, the fundraiser returns full circle to support another officer killed while on duty.
Tacoma police officer Reginald Jake Gutierrez died last November while responding to domestic dispute call. Funds raised at this year’s event will go to the Behind the Badge Foundation in honor of him.
“Any money we make is going to the Behind the Badge Foundation and in turn they’ll be sending officers this summer to Washington D.C. to place his name on the National (Law Enforcement Officers) Memorial,” Coleman said.
Any money we make is going to the Behind the Badge Foundation and in turn they’ll be sending officers this summer to Washington D.C. to place his name on the National (Law Enforcement Officers) Memorial.
The event made between $6,000 and $24,000 in previous years.
The community response to the event every year is testament to how the community rallies together to support each other. For Puyallup Police Department Chief Bryan Jeter, seeing that response is the best part.
“Coming together for a worthy cause is the best and most satisfying thing,” Jeter said. “Just being a part of the community event is very special.”
Jeter participated in the event in previous years and has played basketball all his life. Deputy Chief Dave McDonald agreed that seeing the community come together is the best part for him. Officers also get the chance to interact in a positive environment.
“From the students in the parking lot telling officers where to park — there are a lot of good interactions,” McDonald said.
From the students in the parking lot telling officers where to park — there are a lot of good interactions.
Dave McDonald, deputy chief at Puyallup Police Department
Other officers have said that the event gives students opportunities to see officers in a new light, outside of their profession, said Coleman.
They see that officers “get along with the community and (they) want to help the community,” he said.
Everyone at the event is a volunteer, including Ferrucci Junior High math and social studies teacher Aaron Watt, who is the game announcer and has participated since its first year.
“I get to tease the players on the court and make the crowd laugh,” Watt said. “I love seeing the community come together (and) see students get involved in (community) outreach.”
While the game was originally a Puyallup event, its expansion to Lakewood this year can get more people involved, Coleman said.
“We’ve usually stayed within Puyallup but this year we’ve got players coming from the Auburn School District, Tacoma, Peninsula School District and Clover Park School District,” Coleman said. “It grows every year … It’s a lot of work, but boy I tell you, it’s worth every minute of sweat.”
The eighth annual Cops vs. Teachers Charity Basketball Game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 29 at Lakes High School. Doors open at 5:15 p.m.