This year’s South Portland Professional Firefighters’ Checking for Charity is scheduled for March 14 and is virtual. For more information, purchase merchandise or enter an online raffle, visit www.cfcmaine.org. Kathy Amoroso courtesy photo 

SOUTH PORTLAND — This year’s Checking For Charity event on March 14, while virtual, will still display South Portland firefighters’ passion for helping others and playing hockey for the fun of it.

Michael Norton, a South Portland firefighter and EMT, said that a link to the event will be released a few days ahead of time at www.cfcmaine.org and on Checking for Charity’s social media pages. The fundraiser will include three games, at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Over the years, South Portland Professional Firefighter’s Checking for Charity has gained strong public success, with more than 700 spectators attending some years, Norton said. The March 14 event will feature South Portland alumni hockey players, South Portland and area firefighters, former high-level college and professional hockey players, in three separate games.

Although the 2021 games will not have an in-person audience, Norton said that he “hopes that the positive atmosphere and support will remain.”

In 2017, Checking for Charity was created from two South Portland firefighters’ love for playing hockey and a desire to help local people, Norton said.

“We thought it would be really cool for us to be able to put on the charity event, having some fun playing hockey, and having it go to a good cause,” he said. “The idea came from entering a team into the Maine Pond Hockey Classic, which benefits the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Waterville. That’s where we started throwing ideas around an brainstorming and saying, ‘Wow, we could actually do this.’ Later that year we ended up having an event and it was amazing. It’s grown hugely over the years.”

In 2019, the event raised $24,000, Norton said.

Checking for Charity event, 2019. South Portland Firefighters and High School alumni. Photographer Kathy Amoroso

“Our goal before COVID for the 2020 event was $30,000 and that’s still our goal now,” Norton said. “Obviously, not sure if we’re going to be able to make that happen. Times are hard on people and we’re going to do the best we can. We’re looking to raise as much money as we can.”

This year a portion of proceeds will go to the Travis Roy Foundation and the event is going to be dedicated to the life and work of Roy, who died in late October of 2020, Norton said.

Roy was a Maine-born hockey player who attended Boston University and suffered a major spinal cord injury in his first collegiate game with the Terriers. He started the Travis Roy Foundation, creating and donating grants for adaptive care and adaptive living for spinal cord injury survivors.

“He has raised millions and millions of dollars through his organization to help those who are trying to still maintain a sense of normal life but are suffering from spinal cord injuries,” he said.

The 2020 Checking for Charity event, which was ultimately postponed due to COVID-19, was supposed to host Roy, Norton said.

“So we thought we had do something special, where we weren’t able to host him,” he said. “We weren’t able to put on a nice tribute for him, so we’re going to now. We’re going to honor him — We’re going to honor his family, his parents. A portion of proceeds will go back to the legacy, the foundation, he created.”

Besides the Travis Roy Foundation, the event’s proceeds will help support the South Portland Food Cupboard, American Lung Association, Salvation Army, Team MR8, American Heart Association, The Dempsey Center, Portland Firefighters Burn Foundation, Firefighters Cancer Support Networks, The Boys and Girls Club, Animal Refuge League, South Portland Athletics, South Portland Vocal Music Program, Scarborough Police Explorer Post, South Portland Little League, Trauma Intervention Program and more, Norton said in an email.

“It’s anybody who is in need and asking for money, to support a cause,” he said. “Each year we donate over $20,000.”

As firefighters, the team typically sees people “on their worst days,” Norton said. During the event, before the pandemic, seeing people smiling and having fun while being able to support causes is enjoyable.

Public spectators at the Checking for Charity event in 2019. People can watch the event online this year on March 14. The games will be livestreamed due to COVID-19. Courtesy photo Kathy Amoroso

“Not only are we able to make a difference when we’re on our firetrucks and our ambulances, going to emergency calls, which is our jobs, but we’re able to make a difference donating some money, getting people through those hard times, helping youth groups do something they might not be able to do,” he said. “That’s gratifying, of course. That’s worth all the effort we put in it.”

Local marketing group Twelve North Agency will assist with streaming the event.

“All of us on the committee were pretty much on the same page, feeling like we weren’t going to be able to have spectators,” Norton said. “So we had to find another way to keep doing what we want to do, and that’s raising money for those groups we support throughout the year. And we started hearing about people livestreaming and seeing some other groups do it, some other charities.”

Norton said that there will be time in between games for sanitization and the players will follow local, state and CDC COVID-19 guidelines, with no spectators allowed.

Merchandise is for sale on the Checking for Charity website, www.cfcmaine.org, Norton said, and people can donate at checkingforcharity.square.site. For a streaming link, visit the event Facebook page @CheckingForCharityL1476 or visit the website.

People can also mail in a check, made payable to the South Portland Professional Firefighters. Mail to South Portland Professional Firefighters,  Attn: Checking For Charity, 684 Broadway, South Portland, ME 04106.

“We’re still looking to pass on that same sense of people feeling like they’re involved and making a difference and helping a cause to help their neighbors,” Norton said. “That’s ultimately what we’re up to. We’re helping our neighbors. We might not all live in the city, but we work in the city. We take a tremendous amount of pride in the city and the local charities that are around here, and that’s why we do it.”

Courtesy photo Michael Norton

Courtesy photo Michael Norton

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