Annual game to benefit child abuse prevention

ALPENA – Law enforcers and firefighters from the Alpena area will square off on the ice on Nov. 2 to raise money for child abuse prevention.

The 11th Annual Pigs-N-Heat hockey game will benefit the Northeast Michigan Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative’s Children’s Advocacy Center, Project Manager Clint Bohlen said. Through raffles and a silent auction, the game will raise money to support the center’s interviewer and victim’s advocate. These two advocacy center employees are crucial to its mission of helping suspected victims of child physical or sexual abuse.

Instead of being interviewed multiple times by different officials, a child who is a suspected victim of abuse can be interviewed once by the Children’s Advocacy Center’s independent interviewer, Bohlen said. These interviews are videotaped so they can be used as evidence in criminal prosecutions. Victim’s advocates then assure the children get the care they need.

“Our focus is on loving these kids,” he said. “That’s what this event is all about.”

The center’s audiovisual equipment was donated by the Deputy Ryan Seguin Memorial Fund, Exchange Club of Alpena member Lee Szczesniak said. The club strives to eliminate child abuse, and is handling fundraising efforts for the game. It’s free to attend, and raffle tickets will be on sale for $2 or three for $5. The grand prize is a $500 Visa gift card from Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union, with other prizes given out from first to fifth place. There also will be a silent auction on the day of the game, which starts at 6 p.m. at Northern Lights Arena.

Raffle tickets are on sale Friday and Saturday at Walmart from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at both entrances, Szczesniak said. Exchange Club members will be joined by Alcona Health Systems employees and Child Abuse and Neglect Team members to sell them. They’re also on sale at Northern Lights Arena, and can be bought at the game as well.

The collaboration came about after the advocacy center asked game organizers if they could be the beneficiary, Bohlen said. Raffle and auction proceeds are typically split between charities picked by police and firefighters. According to game organizers’ figures, $33,800 has been raised since the game started in 2003.

Many local businesses were happy to help this year, especially when they learned the goal was to fight child abuse, Bohlen said. They’ve donated everything from food to sporting goods, along with numerous gift cards.

“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity,” he said.

Marquette’s hockey game pitting firefighters against law officers inspired Alpena’s version, Alpena Fire Department member Andy Marceau said. He and Alpena County Sheriff’s Sgt. J.P. Ritter set out to organize the game, with help from many other volunteers, organizations and businesses. Unlike Marquette’s, which raises money to help house fire victims, Alpena area police and firefighters pick different charities around the community each year.

Alpena Regional Medical Center is partnering with the game as well, Community Health Education Coordinator Melissa Tolan-Halleck said. The hospital has a center that trains police and fire crews in CPR, and will use the game as a chance to teach a hands-only CPR method.

“Some of the skaters from the fire department will be some of those modelling CPR,” she said.

Collaborating with the Children’s Advocacy Center has breathed new life into the game, Marceau said, and it’s always drawn a crowd to NLA. In past years, up to 400 people have come out to watch and have a good time.

Michigan State Police Trooper Ashley Simpson is helping with fundraising as well, and said the game is the subject of much good-natured ribbing between police and fire crews. This year, firefighters from Alpena, Alpena Township, Sanborn and Maple Ridge townships and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center will play. They’ll face Michigan State Police, Alpena and Montmorency sheriff’s deputies, Alpena city police and Alpena County prosecutor and Department of Human Services office employees.

“It’s a friendly competition, but we’re out there to win, because it’s for the title for the year,” she said. “It’s fun, you’ll hear them rag on each other off and on throughout the year.”

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at