FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence RedWolves’ annual First Responders Game is going to have added meaning this year – and perhaps provide a strong impact as well.
Saturday's 7 o'clock matchup against Fayetteville will honor all local police, fire, EMS and dispatchers, but the game is also being dedicated to the Florence 7 who were involved in the Oct. 3 shooting.
The shooting resulted in the deaths of Florence police Sgt. Terrence Carraway and Florence County Sheriff’s Office investigator Farrah Turner. Five others were wounded in the attack as well: Officer Brian Hart, Officer Travis Scott, Officer Scott Williamson, Deputy Arie Davis and investigator Sarah Miller.
Former West Florence High and Trinity-Byrnes standout Jake Swartz was at Duke University when the shooting occurred, but he likely knows more than any other RedWolves player the effect on the community it had.
“I remember being at Duke and seeing the news and having my mom text me,” Swartz said. “Those men and women – the police officers, first responders, military – the sacrifices they make so that we can be safe, it’s just an honor for them to come out here and it’s an honor for us to give them even a fraction of what they deserve.
“I think it’s going to be a great night.”
The RedWolves are also looking to make a significant contribution to the Florence 7 fund through a variety of activities, and have their sights set on raising at least $5,000 by night’s end – all for an extremely worthy cause, first-year coach Ryan Vruggink said.
“Those guys put their lives on the line for us every day so we get to come out and do things like come to the yard every night and play baseball,” Vruggink said. “Without them, this wouldn’t be possible in the grand scheme of things. This league in general does a great job of recognizing first responders and (the) military and that’s so awesome.
“I’ll be halfway on the field cheering for those guys because I have the utmost respect for all of them.”
Raffle tickets will be sold for $10 each with four big prizes available. The first is a two-night stay at the new Hyatt Place with dinner at Town Hall and drinks at The Dispensary included in the package.
The second-place prize with be a 35-quarter YETI cooler; the third-place prize is a one-hour massage at the Forum Spa and fourth place earns a $50 gift card to Top Golf in Myrtle Beach.
Other activities include Blue Line flag car window stickers that can be purchased for $5, and the 50/50 raffle on June 21 will go toward the Florence 7 fund as well.
The players will also honor them with special jerseys created with the Florence 7 in mind, and those will auctioned off with all of the proceeds going toward the fund.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a big crowd – fireworks after the game and we’re going to do everything we can for them and to honor them and their families for what they do,” Vruggink said.
Gates open at 6 p.m. and there also will be a free pregame tailgate for first responders, who can enter the game free with their IDs.