WOODLAND PARK, NJ - Montclair PBA Local 53 challenged Totowa PBA Local 80 to a friendly game of baseball to raise funds for fallen police officers.
Montclair Police officers and MFD Battalion Chief Steve Miscia participated in the 10-team baseball tournament against other police departments to raise money for fallen officers.
The first annual tournament of its kind held on Aug. 29 was held in honor of slain Jersey City Officer Melvin Santiago, said Montclair Police Detective Malik Rivers.
"Thirteen Montclair officers participated," said Rivers.
Officer Joe Savittieri, who is also the State Delegate for PBA Local 53, helped to organize the Montclair Police Department's participation in the softball tournament fundraiser.
Santiago, 23, was gunned down in the line of duty on July 13, 2014 and pronounced dead at the Jersey City Medical Center after being shot while responding to a report of an armed robbery at the Walgreens store in Jersey City.
Woodland Park officials organized the tournament as a way to honor fallen officers and to bring positive awareness to the law enforcement profession, said Woodland Park Councilman Vincent DeCesare. "We felt that we wanted to do something positive with all that's going on in the world with police officers."
DeCesare and his colleague Woodland Park Councilwoman Tracey Kallert were the co-organizers for the event. DeCesare says that this was the first of many to come annually.
DeCesare continued, "This was the one-year anniversary of Officer Melvin Santiago's death and we wanted to play the game in his honor."
Rivers said that the Santiago family was present and honored at the game, "Officer Santiago from Jersey City's Mom was presented with a plaque."
"Altogether there were ten teams and each department gave a donation," added Rivers. "The Paterson Police Department won the tournament."
Of the $8,800 raised from the baseball tournament, DeCesare says that a portion will go to the Santiago family and a portion will go to the NJPBA Survivor's Fund. The checks will be presented to the Santiago family and the NJPBA Survivor's Fund during the Oct. 7 Woodland Park Council meeting, added DeCesare.
DeCesare said that if there was anything that he wanted the public to gain from their act of kindness, is for citizens to support local police departments who "protect us when we need them."
"We should rally around them," DeCesare added.
Rivers, who is also Montclair FOP President, said, "This is something that is near and dear to our heart. When you have an officer that is lost in the line of duty, it is like losing a family member. We wanted to let the family know that their loved one is gone but not forgotten."
Savittieri explained that over 150 officers participated in the one day event that was co-organized by an organization called Families behind the Badge.
The teams that participated include Montclair PBA Local 53, Little Falls PBA Local 346, Clifton PBA Local 36, Jersey City POBA, Woodland Park PBA Local 173, Passaic County County Corrections PBA 197, Passaic County Sheriffs' PBA 286, Passaic PBA Local 14, Paterson PBA Local 1 and Totowa PBA Local 80.
"PBA local 53 was honored to take part in an event such as this one. The most important things that matter are Family and Friends. All the officers involved came together and made this a great day," said Savittieri.