Day of fun for police, firefighters

DULUTH - Police, fire and emergency personnel put themselves in harm's way daily, sometimes without generous remuneration.

Saturday, the public can show their appreciation for these dedicated men and women at the third-annual Police and Fire Appreciation Day and Olympix Competition. The Foster Children's Foundation sponsors the free event and all proceeds benefit the more than 800 Gwinnett County foster children.

"The Olympix got started as a way to show police and fire personnel how much we appreciate what they do for the community," said Herman Pennamon Jr., Chairman of the Board of FCF. "We don't as citizens show them enough respect and appreciation for what they do."

At least five teams of public servants will gather at the River Green Soccer Fields in Scott Hudgens Park at 4545 River Green Parkway in Duluth. The Duluth Police Raiders, Suwanee Police Storm, The Gwinnett County CERT team Certifiables, Duluth Fire Station No. 2 Mean Machines, and the Duluth COPS unit, aka Hawg Squad, will fight to take home the 2006 gold medal.

Teams will compete in games like the dizzy bat, in which the contestant puts his forehead to the top of a baseball bat, spins around 10 times, then runs down the field. In the doughnut relay, competitors race with handcuffed ankles and holding a glass of water, to a doughnut and wolf it down. They test their strength in tug of war competitions and labor to fill a pair of oversized pants with water balloons.

"It is so much fun to see them gather together and play so hard at silly games just for the bragging rights," said Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter, who will serve as master of ceremonies.

Every team is permitted one celebrity or athlete member. Retired Gwinnett Gladiator Cam Brown and David Marshall, former NFL Cleveland Brown, will spend the day motivating the team members.

"I have an opportunity to have fun and honor the ladies and gentlemen that put their lives on the line for us in daily life," Brown said. "They do a tremendous job."

Last year's Olympix attracted more than 500 spectators, and Duluth Fire Station No. 19 won the gold. Sponsors and community leaders donate prizes to the participants, like a goody bag filled with free dinners, movies, Atlanta Braves tickets and overnight stays, according to Pennamon.

The Olympix is a fun day to honor those who keep our world running according to civilized laws. All participants show up to help support charity. Suzanne Geske, Olympix planner and founder of FCF, schedules the day near Sept. 11 as a way to honor the day, rather than grieve.

"The 9/11 experience made me realize that we should love one another, care for one another and live each minute like it was our last," Geske said. "One way to love one another is to help foster children. Terror is in our own backyard, in the form of children in abusive homes. The police and fire are often the first people they come into contact with when they are removed from home. They are scared and the children go into their arms when their life is in chaos."

The family oriented event features free admission with carnival rides and food. All proceeds will go to help the projects that FCF sponsors. The Foster Children's Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that coordinates an annual picnic, Christmas party and Easter egg hunt. Open all year is a resource center where foster children can select clothing, makeup, hygiene products, school supplies and other needed items.

Molly Flageolle, a freshman at Kennesaw State University, participated in the 2005 Olympix and will return Saturday to staff an information booth. She worked with FCF while a senior at Brookwood High School.

"One 5-year-old child at an Easter egg hunt told me that our involvement and participation was like Christmas because she got so many toys and so much attention," Flageolle said.

Marshall is an active helper with FCF. He said it is our duty to look after the foster children.

"They will be our future and the decision-makers," Marshall said. "We need to mentor them and offer them positive influences because we will be handing our world down to them one day."