Good B-ball for a good cause

Published 10:29 pm Friday, April 5, 2013

Ten teams, two courts, 18 games. That’s what the Thin Red Line Benefit Basketball Tournament holds for fan and players. But these teams aren’t just made up of your average player. These guys are professional — firefighters, that is — and the money raised through the tournament will go to benefit their fallen brothers.

Volunteer firefighters from across the county will take to the court and take each other on for top billing at the all-day, double elimination tournament. Bunyan, Bath, Pantego, Pinetown, Belhaven, Chocowinity, Aurora, Pamlico Beach, Old Ford, Clark’s Neck players start at 8 a.m. Saturday at Transitions of Eastern North Carolina (Old Washington High School) and will go all day until one team comes out the victor.

“We just want people to come out and support us,” said Bunyan Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dave Lewis. “The more fans we’ve got there, the more entertaining it will be.”

Bunyan’s fire department is heading up the tournament, a tribute to those who have died in the line of duty, according to Wes Williams, 27-year veteran firefighter with the Bunyan department. Thus the name of the tournament: the Thin Red Line refers to the courage needed to conquer fears in order to save the lives and properties of others.

Money raised will benefit the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Foundation, an organization tasked with supporting and remembering the state’s fallen firefighters and their families. NCFFF officials will be on hand at the tournament with educational materials and merchandise.

“We just wanted to do something locally to help promote NCFFF and help raise some money for them,” Williams said.

Williams said the basketball tournament was a collective idea, and the enthusiastic response of county volunteer departments had organizers limiting the number of teams to 10 to manage the length of the tournament.

“We’ve had softball tournaments a few years back, but a lot of our guys are into basketball,” Lewis explained. “We’re still in basketball season.”

“It’s April Madness,” Williams laughed.

Lewis and Williams said if the tournament draws the kind of interest they hope for, they’d like to make it an annual event, as a way to support the organization that supports firefighters’ families in their time of need.

While each participating fire department has raised money to donate to the event, fundraising also comes in the form of corporate sponsors, concession and ticket sales. Tickets will be sold at both front and back door of Transitions of Eastern North Carolina: $5 a pop, children 6 and under are free.

Transitions of Eastern North Carolina is located at 230 E. Eighth Street, Washington. For more information about the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Foundation, visit