It’s red versus blue. Police versus fighters. The Lawdawgs versus the Smoke Eaters. That’s right, the annual Boots and Badges basketball showdown is coming to town, and is looking to be bigger than ever.
This year, the Enumclaw Fire Department and police officers from around the Pacific Northwest are coming together May 22 to raise money for two children and their families as they fight through cancer.
Sienna Braun, 6, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014. Hunter Coffman, 2, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last December.
The Boots and Badges game started as a small community event, raising money for the American Cancer Society until cancer struck at the heart of the Black Diamond Police Department.
Cmd. Greg Goral was diagnosed with appendix cancer in 2012, but after four unsuccessful surgeries and chemo treatment, the cancer remained and the Boots and Badges game became personal.
Last year, the game raised more than $34,000 for Goral to cover medical costs, the largest amount since the first Boots and Badges game, which raised $10,000. Goral died in August 2015.
Sgt. Brian Lynch, who has organized the game since 2010, hopes the momentum keeps building as the focus shifts from Goral to Sienna and Hunter, who will both be Black Diamond’s Chiefs for a Day later this year.
The game will be Sunday, May 22 at the Enumclaw High School gym. Doors open at 2 p.m. and the ceremonies begin at 3 p.m.
Tickets to the game are $10 and can be bought at the Black Diamond Police Department, the Enumclaw Police Department and at the door.
Reviving the Boots and Badges spirit
After organizing last year’s game for Goral, Lynch was unsure he had the energy to organize another.
“It just wiped me out,” Lynch said. “It took so much for last year. It was so emotional.”
But it seemed Black Diamond Police Chief Jamey Kiblinger and Cmd. Brian Martinez had other ideas when Lynch arranged to talk with them about the game.
“They said, ‘great, we got some big ideas. I can’t wait to hear what you want to do,'” Lynch recalled.
“Well,” he replied, “let me hear your ideas first.”
That’s when Martinez introduced Lynch to Sienna. Lynch said the connection was so immediate and strong that he decided to get another game going.
“I went out with another officer to Sienna’s house to meet up with her and her parents for the first time, and we brought a Black Diamond baseball hat,” Lynch said. “I set it down, and she asked, ‘Will I get one of those hats?'”
Of course, the hat was for Sienna, and when Lynch put it on her head and said it was hers, she was all smiles.
“I have absolutely fallen in love with her,” he said.
In 2014, Sienna was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer that starts in the bone marrow that can quickly move to the blood and spread around the body. After treatment, Sienna relapsed back in July 2015, but Lynch said she has since gone through a bone marrow transplant last November and her numbers are going in the right direction.
“If you were to meet her, you wouldn’t know that she was sick,” said Lynch. “She always smiles. She only wants to be your friend. She’s an incredible girl.”
So the Boots and Badges game was revived with Sienna in the spotlight, but the event kept evolving once Lynch met Hunter.
“When I was told we should have two Chiefs for a Day, I said no, there was no way. It’s too much,” Lynch said. “But as soon as I saw his name – my son’s name is Hunter – I thought it was supposed to be. Once again, I was being selfish. It was going to be too much work to have two. But it was supposed to be.”
Hunter was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a fast growing, highly malignant brain tumor just a few days after Christmas last year.
Hunter was rushed into surgery after his diagnosis to remove the tumor, but is still receiving chemo treatment.
“This family is incredible,” Lynch said. “They are so strong, and I try to put myself in their shoes – would I be able to put this front up that they do?”
Sienna’s and Hunter’s family have since come together and met, and Lynch said the Brauns are giving their experience and support to the Coffmans.
“They’re early on in this,” Lynch said. “They’re only six months into this. Sienna’s been doing it for two years. They’re at different places in their journey, but I think this, for some reason, this brought them together and its good.”
And although the Boots and Badges spotlight shines on Sienna and Hunter, Lynch is also doing it in memory of Goral.
“I think he would have enjoyed these two guys,” Lynch said.
The official name of the game is now the Commander Goral Memorial Boots and Badges
What’s at the game and other events
Lynch said he is working to make this year’s game as big, if not bigger, than last year’s.
“We weren’t sure how the public would react after last year, but it’s been, if not the same, stronger,” Lynch said. “We’re getting donations, and tickets are selling really well. There’s going to be a lot of people at this game.”
The Enumclaw and Buckley band Cylas will be welcoming people to the event by playing live from 2 – 3 p.m.
The Buckley Fire Pipes and Drums will be performing during the ceremonies.
Lynch has confirmed that players from the Seattle Mist women’s football team will be attending the game and signing autographs.
There will also be a silent auction. Many items up for auction are listed on the Boots and Badges Facebook and include a Seahawk helmet signed by Kam Chancellor, a one night stay in a luxury suite at the W Hotel in downtown Seattle, a complete drivers course provided by 911 Driving School in Bonney Lake, Rainier tickets and VIP passes and more.
There will also be a raffle free-throw contest. Two winners of the raffle will shoot free-throws, and whoever scores the most wins a sports package that includes box seats to a July Mariners game – two rows back from the plate, Lynch said.
Boots and Badges T-shirts and long sleeve shirts for sale at the game; $25 for adults and $20 for youth.
Lynch gave a shoutout to McGann Electric and Mutual of Enumclaw, whose support has immensely helped him organize the game.
There will be other events throughout the summer that aim to raise money for Sienna and Hunter. Lynch said there will be a 5K run sometime in July in Black Diamond, and the Buckley Soup Ladies and Mama from Mama Passarelli’s Dinner House have expressed interest in also holding a fundraiser soon.