SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland Fire Department is back again with a night of charity hockey, garnering donations to give back to the community it loves.

Checking for Charity is the largest fundraising event of the year for the South Portland Fire Department and will be held 4:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, March 23 with all proceeds benefiting the department’s charitable fund, which funnels donations back into the community for those in need. While the event is free, donations will be accepted at the door for the cause.

The evening will feature a series of hockey games, played at the William B. Troubh Arena on Park Avenue in Portland, featuring South Portland firefighters, students from South Portland Middle School, South Portland High School Alumni and former professional and collegiate players.

A truly South Portland-centric event, to kick off the evening students from South Portland High School’s a cappella group “Scales of Males” will sing the National Anthem.

While the event is free and donation based, a silent auction will be held throughout the evening, featuring donations from across the community. Items available during the silent auction include signed NHL jerseys, including a Detroit Flyers jersey signed by Wayne Simmonds and a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey signed by Tomas Kaberle.

There will also be a 50/50 raffle and souvenirs sold throughout the evening to benefit the South Portland Fire Department Charitable Fund. Souvenirs will include coffee mugs, commemorative pucks and stickers.

In previous years, the fundraiser, now in its third year, has had the headlining game feature a showdown of the South Portland Fire Department versus alumni players from South Portland High School, but this year it will get a little tweak.

“Every year, the fire department would get a painful beat down by the South Portland Alumni,” said Firefighter/EMT Mike Norton with a laugh. “This year we switched it up to make it a little more competitive and fun to watch.”

Norton is treasurer of Local 1476 and a primary coordinator the event.

The Maine Mariners, the Portland-based ECHL team, will join in on the fun to sign autographs and do a little coaching for the games. The Maine Mariners team coaches will also play in the alumni/firefighter classic this year.

“The players will be doing some behind-the-bench coaching for the games, so this will give them the opportunity to coach the coaches. They will also be helping out and giving pointers to the middle schoolers during their game as well,” Norton said. “It’s a good time to be in middle school in South Portland.”

Slugger and Beacon the puffin, the mascots for the Portland Sea Dogs and Maine Mariners, respectively, will also be on hand to interact with fans.

Norton and the South Portland Fire Department consider it a point of pride that the event has become such a community-based event, with so much involvement and support coming from across the city. The night is organized and executed entirely by the South Portland Fire Department and their families, and as the event progresses through the years, Norton said it has become easier to secure donations to make the games a reality.

“Once a year we all call in every favor we can to make this night happen,” Norton said. “The community really helps us keep our costs low so we can get as much into the fund as possible.”

The first year of the event, in 2017, the South Portland Fire Department raised $6,300 during Checking for Charity, a number that more than doubled last year to $14,000.

This year, the department’s fundraising goal is $15,000.

“We donated over $20,000 in 2018 to people in need, and most of that money is spent locally,” Norton said. “If there is a person in the community in need, we want to be able to help them out.”

This year’s event is dedicated to Lt. Harry Weymouth, a South Portland Firefighter and paramedic who died in August 2018. A portion of proceeds from the evening will go to the college funds of Weymouth’s three children, and the family will be on the ice during the initial puck drop.

“Their family always used to participate in the event, so we want to make sure this is a really special night for his wife and kids,” Norton said.

The event will include a cash bar and feature Fore River Brewing’s “All Hands” brown ale, which is a collaborative beer created with the South Portland Fire Department. A portion of each sale of the beer will be returned to the cause.

Following the games, an after party will be held at Easy Day on Broadway in South Portland.

“We love being able to give back to the community and help where we can,” Norton said. “This event is a fun excuse to help us achieve that goal.”