Special Olympics benefit game pits police against firefighters

WELLSBURG – Area police and firefighters will be trading their uniforms, badges, coats and boots for jerseys and shoulder pads when they take to the gridiron for a game April 27 benefiting Brooke County Special Olympics.

Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. at Brooke Memorial Stadium, where members of the Brooke County, Weirton and Wheeling Fraternal Order of Police lodges play members of the Brooke County Firefighters Association and Weirton Fire Department.

Admission is $5, with children age 10 and under admitted free. There will be a $2 parking fee and concession stand operated by volunteers with Special Olympics.

All proceeds benefit the Brooke County Special Olympics program. It’s not the first time the police and firefighters have played for the cause, but it’s the first in which the game will be known as the Bill Furioli Memorial Football Classic.

“We renamed it to honor him,” said Brooke County Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Palmer, the event’s coordinator, noting Furioli had served as the program’s director for 26 years when he died on Jan. 23.

Helen Furioli, his wife, said she and her daughters, who assisted him in coaching and assisting the Special Olympics athletes, “feel very proud of that. That was a nice gesture for Bill.”

Furioli’s daughter Sara, a long-time Special Olympics volunteer coach, now serves as the program’s director.

Helen Furioli said local law enforcement officers and Special Olympics go back a long time. It was at one of the basketball games between the Special Olympians and sheriff’s department that her husband was asked to coach the athletes for the first time, she said.

She said Palmer suggested using proceeds from the game to benefit Special Olympics when he observed her and others raising money for the cause at Wellsburg Middle School, where he is a prevention and resource officer.

“I really think God sent him our way,” Furioli said.

Palmer said Special Olympics is a cause supported by the National Fraternal Order of Police, and the officers and firefighters are pleased to help the local athletes.

“It’s definitely a competitive game – everybody wants to win – but the main thing is to raise money for the Special Olympians,” he said.

Furioli said proceeds from the game will defray expenses for the athletes’ transportation, lodging and meals while attending regional and state competitions. In June, they will participate in the state summer games, competing in bocce, golf and track and field.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)