“South Portland Firefighters and South Portland High School alumni are joined by Maine Mariner head coach Riley Armstrong and assistant coach Anthony Bohn for the 2019 Checking For Charity,” according to the Checking for Charity website. Courtesy Mike Norton

SOUTH PORTLAND — Checking for Charity is a safe and fun event that supports nonprofit organizations as well as the South Portland Fire Department, said organizer Mike Norton.

On March 15 at William B. Troubh Ice Arena, located on 225 Park Ave in Portland, the young and old in the South Portland community can enjoy hockey games and a chance to win prizes during a silent auction. The event begins at 11 a.m.

The South Portland Professional Firefighters Local 1476 have put on the event themselves each year since 2017.

This year, said Norton, a South Portland Firefighter and EMT, a majority of the proceeds will be going to the Travis Roy Foundation, an organization that enhances the lives people with spinal cord injuries.

“We’ll also support some local families, said Norton. “Some of them are individuals going through family troubles that we also support, first responders, military and then groups like the South Portland school system, music groups, food cupboards and the homeless shelter.”

Norton said that the event started from a love of hockey and a need for new fundraising ideas.

“We were in a time with our union where the fundraising was few and far in between and we were using a third party company,” said Norton. “When you do that, they get a large portion of proceeds, and they cold call people. We’d get complaints; the guys would be kind of sketchy, so we kind of started getting into hockey.

“I’d play when I was growing up, had stopped, and we were realizing that we were running out of charitable donations. A few of us were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do a hockey event to make money?’ We have a former pro who I’m good friends with, and we got talking. The first year we did two games. That first year we raised about $6,700. We thought that was fantastic. We had fun and we got the community together, so we decided to do it again. The second year we raised $14,000.”

Last year, Checking for Charity raised almost $25,000, said Norton. The goal for this year is $30,000.

Courtesy South Portland Fire Department

An opportunity to make donations is at the door, but the event is free to attend, he said. Fore River Brewing Company will feature a cash bar as well, and prizes will be raffled away.

The first puck drops at noon, but doors open at 11 a.m., and the silent auction will go until 2 p.m.

Norton said that he expects many families to attend this year, as the event is on a Sunday afternoon. As a hockey fan and player, he enjoys playing for his kids and for the community.

“I grew up playing,” he said. “I remember skating in ponds in South Portland as a kid. I get to share this with my kids. There’s nothing cooler than being out there and warming up and seeing your kids up against the glass. It’s just what we are. We’re teaching our kids that there’s still a reason to help. We’re usually showing up on people’s worst days.”

There will be three games played throughout the afternoon, said Norton. He will be playing in the first game.

“First are two teams of South Portland High School alumni and firefighters,” he said. “The second game, which is shorter, is two teams from the South Portland middle schools, and then the last game is two teams of former professional and high level college players. They kind of show us what hockey’s supposed to be like.”

Mascots from the Portland Mariners and the Portland Sea Dogs will be walking around the arena, said Norton, an exciting visit for young children.

For hockey fans, tickets to the Mariners’s March 14 game will also support the South Portland Professional Firefighters Local 1476 and its goal, said Norton. Call 761-6725 to learn more or order tickets.

Norton said that the event couldn’t be possible without support from sponsors, many being local businesses.

“Last year was definitely our largest yet,” he said. “It’s really grassroots. For a lot of us (firefighters), this gives us something to look forward to and helps us deal with work.”

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