Junior Comets football players splattered pies across the faces of police for a good cause Sept. 28.
The event benefitted the Lorain County Blue Foundation, which provides aid to the families of officers who fall or are injured in the line of duty.
More than $1,300 in change cup donations were raised in the fundraiser at St. Joseph Catholic Church. That amount is part of $6,300 put together by the Junior Comets before this year’s benefit game played this past Saturday.
The family of fallen state trooper Kenneth Velez was on hand at the church athletic fields, with son Christian and Junior Comets president Mike Biro trying to sway the fevered crowd of boys away from throwing a pie in their direction.
A swarm of young Comets ultimately chose Biro before unleashing more fury upon officers from Amherst and Lorain.
“This whole event started when our social media coordinator suggested a change bucket challenge and it just snowballed from there,” said Biro as he wiped whipped cream from his face. “The officers got on board with great enthusiasm and here we are today. That whole auction at the beginning was meant for him, but somehow, everyone wanted to throw a pie in my face.”
Trooper Velez died just over a year ago after being struck by a passing motorist during a traffic stop near Lakewood on Interstate 90. He was a Junior Comets coach from 2009 to 2012.
“I’m very proud of this because a lot of officers don’t get the respect they deserve from the community,” said Christian Velez. “All the boys are so excited and it’s nice to see everyone together like this. My family has come together closer than ever. We’ve had a lot of support from friends and family. Amherst schools and just this whole community are great.”
“This is a testament to how a cause like this touches people, especially someone with as great of a family as Christian has,” said Biro. “It was such an unfortunate loss and we all miss Kenny. People are kind when it really comes down to it.”
Amherst police Lt. Mark Cawthon was one of the unlucky few to step before lines of players ready to hurl a pie.
“We’re just glad to get to interact with these guys in a positive, fun, carefree type of environment,” he said. “I think that’s really important. We’re all having fun. I think a few guys may have some sore noses. We’re OK, though. We’re all happy to be a part of it.”
Saturday’s event treated officers to lunch courtesy of the Lake Erie Youth Football League. Before the game, a special remembrance was held for Velez with many in the crowd donning “Fly High 511” T-shirts, a nod to the trooper’s badge number.
Fundraiser games were also played in Wellington, Grafton, North Ridgeville, and Columbia Station.
“Christian started with Mike (Biro) as a coach since second grade and Kenny always helped out too,” said Velez’s wife, Rachel. “Now Christian is a junior coming to see all the little ones. Lorain County Blue is phenomenal and this is just awesome to see everyone out here like this.”
“Since Kenny’s accident, this is how the community of Amherst has been with us,” she said. “That’s what’s gotten us through this past year. We put up a banner at the high school thanking the community for their prayers and support. Tonight is no surprise. This is what Amherst is about. We’re all so fortunate and you don’t notice it until you move away and think about where you used to be.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.