It has been several weeks since the Lakewood BlueClaws took the field at FirstEnergy Park, but on Friday Freehold first responders and Howell first responders will come together again to benefit two local families at the stadium.
For the past two years members of the Howell Police Department have taken on their brothers from the township's fire departments in an annual softball game to benefit two local families.
This year, the two sides will unite to take on their partners from Freehold in the annual Reese Behnken Home Run Derby and game at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood. It will be a chance for them to take to the same field as the Lakewood BlueClaws, the SouthAtlantic League Affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The game was supposed to be held in August but a strong summer storm brought those plans to an abrupt halt. Fortunately the forecast for Friday predicts no such foul weather.
Starting at 3:30 on Friday afternoon for just $20 local residents can have the chance to step into the same batters box as the Lakewood BlueClaws for a chance to knock the ball over the wall in a pre-game home run derby. That will be followed by the 8 p.m. game between the two groups.
Rich Behnken, whose daugther the game is named for, said bringing the two neighboring towns together should make for a fun and exciting night for everyone. "This year we were looking to increase the number of people coming out," he said.
The two groups have not only worked together on mutual aid assignments but Behnken said they also know each other on the local softball fields. "A lot of us play together on the same team in a different league so we've all got a good camaraderie there," he said.
Reese Behnken suffers from a rare genetic disease known as Metachromatic Leukodystrophy. On the event's Facebook page Behnken said his 8-year-old daughter was first diagnosed with the disease when she was just two and a half. "Everyday is a struggle for Reese and proceeds from our events are used to help her in her daily needs," he said on the page.
Last year's event benefitted not only Behnken's family but that of Logan James Parker, the nephew of Howell Police Officer John Tucker. Logan was diagnosed at 3-years-old with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
This year the money raised will also help the family of Evan Perkowski who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Behnken said the two families are close friends which makes the event more special. "It's a good feeling that everybody wants to come out and help us out for Reese," he said. "It works out that we all have a friendship together and can hopefully make it happen."
Playing at FirstEnergy Park is just another advantage to taking part in the game Behnken said. "It's definitely a very cool experience," he said. "We're in our 30's. None of us are Major League players, but we get a chance to play in a Major League Stadium so it's pretty cool."
For those attending the game there is a $7 donation asked for at the gate for adults and a $3 donation for children.