Hilliard Police officers and firefighters traded their uniforms for baseball caps over the weekend.
Members of the City of Hilliard Division of Police, Norwich Township Fire Department, and Hilliard Special Olympics gathered Sunday, Sept. 18, for the annual softball game.
The event serves as an opportunity for friendly competition, food, and fun. The Hilliard Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association provided lunch and kept players hydrated.
The softball game is among the activities Hilliard police organizes to bring together law enforcement and the special needs community. This year’s games were combined with the Hilliard Special Olympics Annual Picnic.
“After nine years of volunteering with the Hilliard Bobcats Special Olympics team, many of the athletes and their families have become family to me,” said Hilliard Police Detective Brandon Long, who also serves as the Ohio Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics State Director.
“The softball game is a chance for me to share this bond with my co-workers and friends,” Long added. “My hope is that they develop the same passion and create friendships like those I’ve been fortunate enough to form with these wonderful athletes.”
Hilliard police is active with the Special Olympics Polar Plunge and Law Enforcement Torch Run, which raise money and awareness for Special Olympics of Ohio. The agency also hosts an Autism Awareness Open House each April and has hosted its “Law Enforcement LowDOWN” event with the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio.
In addition to these larger events, officers are often attending various public appearances with members of the special needs community, including leading station tours with the “Life Skills classes” from the local high schools, serving as coaches with the Hilliard Bobcats Special Olympics teams, and attending various talks about safe practices and interactions with law enforcement.
Each year the Bobcat athletes look forward to the softball game, said Hilliard Special Olympics Local Coordinator Andrea Fogt. For some athletes, it “means more than the State Competition.”
“Our athletes have created friendships and relationships with our local safety officers that will last a lifetime,” Fogt said. “These inclusive relationships between all the participants continues to foster the sense of understanding, belonging, and provide comfort to our athletes should they ever need assistance from the police and fire in any situation.“
Additionally, these events provide opportunities for police and fire personnel to learn strategies when working with people with different abilities in varying situations.
“We are grateful to be part of this amazing Hilliard community. The laughter, food, friendships, and competitiveness that come from this day each year are priceless memories,” Fogt said. “We are looking forward to next year’s game when the Bobcats get the chance to beat the teams again!”