The upcoming second annual police versus fire department hockey game is scheduled for Saturday, March 17, at 5:30 pm. Oak Bluffs firefighter and paramedic Trulayna Rose, Tri-Town Ambulance chief and paramedic Ben Retmier, Tisbury Police Detective Max Sherman, and Oak Bluffs Police Officer Tim Millerick gathered to finalize the details of the upcoming first responders game.
This year our bravest battle it out to benefit the Vineyard House, a sobriety and meeting house in Vineyard Haven for people in recovery. A united and strong message came from the organizers at the police departments: They are here to help.
“As first responders, we wanted to organize an event that fundraises for a nonprofit that benefits our community, one that affects all of us,” said Ms. Rose, who is one of the event’s creators, and coach for the fire team.
While there is much to be done on breaking the stigma and disease of addiction, all present at the meeting agreed that they care and they want to be proactive.
Detective Sherman said, “Police and EMTs are reactionary. Most of the calls we respond to stem from issues involving drugs and/or alcohol. Whether it’s a fight or a larceny, alcohol and/or drugs play some part. We witness the effects of addiction on our community every day. We want to be more proactive. We want to help before we have to respond to the calls. It’s a small Island. We know many of the people involved in these calls, we shop at the same stores, greet each other on the street … it’s personal.”
Ben Retmier agreed, “We don’t want to have to see the overdose calls; chances are we know the family, we know the kids. We want to help grow awareness and promote access to Vineyard House.”
Detective Sherman also talked about the success of Gloucester Police’s addiction initiatives with the support of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI). PAARI was started to support local police departments as they work with opioid addicts. Rather than arrest their way out of the problem of drug addiction, the initiative connects people with treatment programs and facilities. Detective Sherman believes an Island-wide proactive approach will contribute to breaking the stigma and help Islanders suffering from addiction move toward the resources on the Vineyard.
“It’s bigger than a hockey game,” Retmier said, “It’s our biggest all-Island first responders event, and coming off the success of last year, the outreach and response has been great.” Retmier also coaches the Peewee Norris team, and is instrumental in gathering business donors, ice time for the team practices, and advertising.
Officer Millerick, the other event creator, said, “There are players on both sides that haven’t played in years, but want to give back on and off the ice. It’s an important issue to us.”
Last year more than 300 people attended the first game, and the organizers expect to pack the new rink. The national anthem will be sung by Joanne and Samantha Cassidy. Youth hockey players will skate in the warmup, and there will be an Irish theme throughout.
A cruiser, response vehicle, and a couple of the players will be on the ice during public skate before the game. If you don’t want to touch the trucks on the ice, the big trucks will also be outside in the back parking lot.
Donations will be accepted at the door, and there will also be a raffle, food, T-shirts for sale, and more.
Game to benefit the Vineyard House
Vineyard House is a sober living facility for Island men and women in need of a safe, structured living environment while they are in the early stages of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.
Executive director Kate Desrosiers will be in the lobby of the rink with pamphlets and information about Vineyard House. She noted that many Islanders have family members, friends, or neighbors who are struggling with addiction and want to start on the road to recovery but don’t know where to begin. Ms. Desrosiers will be happy to answer questions about Vineyard House, and direct Islanders to other resources available for individuals and families dealing with substance use disorders.
“We have been in operation for 20 years, and we are here to help. We are not a detox center. Typically, our residents are people who have been through detox, and want to live in community with other Islanders who are trying to stay sober. In 2014 we opened our new living facility. We have a high success rate of sustained sobriety, especially for men and women who stay with us for longer periods. Vineyard House provides housing for up to 18 months in a clean and supportive community.”
Vineyard House is one organization of many on the island that reaches or supports people battling addiction. For a complete list of organizations and service phone numbers, visit dukescounty.org.
“Vineyard House is honored to be chosen as a beneficiary this year,” Ms. Desrosiers said. “We have such great respect for the police, fire, and EMTs. These organizations are on the front lines of the disease that we are all working to eliminate. It really is an Island-wide collaboration.”
A call to the Vineyard House is a great first step: 508-693-8580.