Almost everyone has accepted the fact that police officers and firefighters have an ageless friendly rivalry. Find somebody who would not want to see a police officer and a firefighter face off one another in the spirit of camaraderie and charity—a tiny part of that person is lying to himself or herself. On April 14th at the Hammond Civic Center, the 2018 911 Slugfest treated viewers to just such a spectacle, all to support Little Wish Foundation.
By going all out in the ring and slugging each other in several rounds of boxing, members of police and fire departments across Northwest Indiana essentially joined forces to champion this cause. Thirteen fighters donned sets of boxing gloves and headgear, ready to step through the ropes and into the ring. As his name was announced, each fighter marched down a raised runway to the roar of the crowd, a gloved fist in the air. Whichever side had the most wins by the end of the night was declared the winner.
Jack Callahan, Assistant Chief to the Hammond Fire Department, knows the ropes when it comes to the evening’s sport. Callahan has been boxing for thirty-six years; he even fought for a world title at one point in time. Therefore, it’s only fitting that he acts as the head of Hammond’s 911 Slugfest.
“Our event has really grown a lot bigger,” Callahan said. “I’m very happy with it.”
Callahan said he wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without his wife, Karen. He also credits Kurt Spivey, an Indianapolis police officer, for running the Indianapolis event. The 911 Slugfest has existed since 2003, and is always held in Hammond and Indianapolis.
This year, Callahan was thrilled to be supporting Little Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children struggling with childhood cancer. With the help of the Hammond police and fire department, along with the entire community behind them, Little Wish Foundation was able to bring a night of fun and happiness to some children in need.
“This is a wonderful organization, and I couldn’t happier that [we’re representing] it tonight,” Callahan said.
Tensions were high between firefighters and police officers, but a few of them could be caught ribbing each other between rounds and shaking off the competitive aura with a few back pats.
Competing in this year’s event was a first for Ivan Lego, an officer representing the police departments’ team.
Lego offered up a grin and one simple answer when asked what he was looking forward to most that evening: “Winning.”
The authentic energy of the matches made for a rip-roaring evening of fun. Drinks and snacks made their way around the room while the announcers’ voices rung throughout the large space, riling the attendees up all the more. Regardless of whether they were cheering a certain side on, audience members of all ages were wholly invested.
Melissa Torres, an attendee hailing from Munster, could not believe the level of professional competitiveness each team brought to the ring.
“They’re all taking it so seriously!” Torres said. “I didn’t expect it to be so competitive, but you can see that they’ve trained, and that they’re just giving their whole heart to this. It’s amazing! It’s a really good time!”
Collin Andrisko of the Hammond Fire Department all but confirmed that training for 911 Slugfest is a very serious matter.
“It’s very stressful leading up to it,” Andrisko said.
The stress and hardwork must have paid off: Andrisko received a gold medal for his round.
“It feels amazing [to win],” Andrisko laughingly admitted. “It’s great that we do this for the kids, but…winning feels awesome, as well.”
The evening hosted some renowned boxers, such as Angel Manfredi, in the ring during halftime. The children being granted wishes through the Little Wish Foundation received a special moment; the youngest received a special commemorative boxing glove emblazoned with a picture of his best fighting face.
Though the winners declared bragging rights and a custom championship ring, at the end of the night every fighter championed the Little Wish Foundation cause.