BY EMILY STRAB — This year’s Sixth Annual Heroes Bowl to benefit the Sonny Frazier Toy Drive was an exciting game decided in the last 11 seconds of play.
The Finest, officers from the Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD), dominated the first half of the game with 15 points from two touchdowns and a safety. The Bravest, firefighters and EMTs from Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department (HVFD), rallied in the second half, putting up two unanswered touchdowns. On their last drive, The Bravest got all the way to the HCPD’s six-yard line, aided by a holding call against The Finest, but failed to get in the end zone, ending the game with a 15-14 win for the HCPD. This marks the third win for The Finest in the Heroes Bowl, setting up next year’s game as the tie-breaker.
Friends, families, and Hyattsville neighbors gathered at Magruder Park on Nov. 12 to watch the sixth installment of this tradition. A chilly afternoon, with the sun already dipping below the tops of the trees at 3 p.m., most gathered at the sideline, while others stayed warm in their folding chairs and blankets, sipping hot drinks from thermos’ from home or enjoying snacks like candy, soda, and hotdogs from the concession stand set up by volunteers. Kids played their own game of football in the adjacent field. Fans cheered on the teams, with some from the HVFD bringing bullhorns and cow bells.
The tradition of the Heroes Bowl developed from Police Sgt. Pat O’Hagan’s idea to create more camaraderie between the police and fire departments, much like what departments in New York were doing. While looking at how to incorporate a fundraiser, they got in contact with the Sonny Frazier Foundation (named in honor of Councilmember Ruth Ann Frazier’s late husband) and having a football game where the police and fire departments could compete while raising money for a local non-profit seemed a perfect fit.
“It keeps growing every year. In addition to being a good fundraiser, it’s a lot of fun for us and has helped the bond,” O’Hagan said. “We have a great relationship with the fire department, but it helps to bond it even more.”
Fireman Nathan Zeck agreed that the game was an important opportunity for the police and fire departments to do something fun together that was not all over social media, and gave them a chance to interact outside of the calls that they respond to together. “It’s kind of an escape for us.”
That escape, which is also the means to raise over $1,000 for the Sonny Frazier Foundation to host its party for the more than 200 local children in need of presents for Christmas, would not be possible if it were not for volunteers like Angela and Teresa Kenny. Angela has been helping out with the toy drive since she was in sixth grade. Now her efforts to schedule, organize, and advertise for the Heroes Bowl are what make this tradition possible.
“I’ve been doing it so many years, it’s automatic now,” said Angela Kenny. Besides dedicating her time to organizing the bowl and aiding the toy drive, she and her mother bought the supplies and snacks for the concession stand.
These volunteers and the Hyattsville City Police Department have made the Sonny Frazier Toy Drive a success every year since Sonny Frazier’s death in 2002. “They came to me,” Councilmember Frazier said, of the volunteers who set up the toy drive after her husband’s death.
It is difficult to imagine the drive happening without the aid of the proceeds from the Heroes Bowl, and the officers and firefighters would certainly miss the chance to not only come together on the field, but talk up the game beforehand. There was more than a little trash talking on the sidelines, but at the end of the game, there was nothing but camaraderie. Both teams played hard for their points, and their pride, but the HCPD had more than a little motivation to win for Sgt. Tony Knox, who was given the game ball after their win. Sgt. Knox is currently battling cancer and the HCPD has united in support of him through a GoFundMe page, as well as through local restaurants.
You can support Sgt. Knox through the GoFundMe page. You can support the Sonny Frazier Toy Drive by dropping off a new, unwrapped toy at the collection center at the Hyattsville Municipal Building.