It was a group of fifth-graders who started the catchy – and very loud – chant that filled the air in the gymnasium at Fonde Elementary.
“Fire fighters! Fire fighters!”
And then another group of students chimed in.
“Go Police! Go Police!”
Within seconds, every student in the packed gymnasium had picked a side for a rousing game of basketball played by the students’ local heroes: The Mobile Police Department vs. The Mobile Fire Department.
“I’m pulling for the police,” said fifth-grader Trystan Johnson. “They help people that are in need and they always answer your call.”
But sitting next to him, Kalyria Wallace was rooting for the firefighters. “If somebody’s house is on fire, they’ll put the fire out. They’re brave.”
This was the first time Trystan, Kalyria and the 300 other students had seen police officers and firefighters done basketball jerseys instead of uniforms. And it was all for a good cause.
Through ticket sales, Fonde raised $1,200 for Aubreigh’s Army, an organization that formed to support former MCPSS student Aubreigh Nicholas, who died recently from DIPG, a form of brain cancer.
“Even though the fire department and the police department were playing against each other, we were all on the same team fighting for the same thing,” said Fonde Principal Joy Gould.
The men and women on the blue and red teams battled it out on the basketball court for four five-minute quarters in front of a crowd that cheered enthusiastically for every single score. Even as the players wore out, and even as they missed a basket, they could not help but smile at the support they were feeling from the students.
“We really wanted to show the kids how much we appreciate them,” said Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste. “But now that we’re out here… it’s making us feel good and like we are appreciated, to have all of these kids supporting us and cheering for us.”
Mobile Fire Chief Mark Sealy said it was an honor to help Fonde raise money for cancer in such an uplifting event.
“They are seeing that we care about the community, and that we care about kids,” he said. “Anything that’s good for our community – that’s what we do.”
The Mobile Police won the game, 39-23. Fonde student leader Mark Smith presented the police officers with a special trophy – a hand-painted gold basketball with the words “Hoops for a Cure.”
Police officers and fire fighters shook hands and gave each other high-fives. And members of the fire department vowed to come back next year, and win.