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Brawley firefighters raise funds for New York's fallen heroes

October 08, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

The fourth paragraph of the firefighters' creed reads, "I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me to guard my neighbor and protect his property."

That is part of the code of any firefighter, even if the "neighbor" is 3,000 miles away.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York City on Sept. 11, local firefighters wanted to do something to help. Logistically and realistically, they couldn't fly to New York and give a helping hand, although most would have liked to do so.

There was something they could do from here … they could help raise money to support their fallen brothers.

That's where Robert Malek and Steve Elizalde stepped in.

Malek, a Brawley firefighter, and Elizalde, who works at Del Norte Chevrolet in Brawley, thought something needed to be done locally.

Quickly both figured there was no better way to bring people together and raise money than through sports, namely softball.

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They decided to stage a softball tournament in Brawley last weekend titled "United We Stand" to show their unity and support for New York's finest.

"This whole thing is in memory of our fallen brothers. The name ‘United We Stand' says it all," said Malek. "We have a lot of people out here playing that had friends who worked for the New York Fire Department and Police Department that were there at the World Trade Center buildings.

"No matter if you're on the West Coast and they're back on the East Coast, that doesn't matter," said Malek. "Those are your brothers out there. When you're a firefighter, or just being American, you want to do something. Everyone wants to help."

Elizalde estimated more than 300 people participated in the tournament, not counting spectators. Elizalde and Malek only had nine days to coordinate the event, which was at Hinojosa Park in Brawley. They said when it came down to the wire, they had to turn away teams. In all, through sign-up fees and concessions, about $3,500 was raised.

Malek said he wasn't surprised by the number of people who participated in the event. While support in the Valley might not be as visible as it is in other parts of the country, Malek thinks Valleyites have shown tremendous loyalty, support and unity during this time of tragedy.

Even those who just watched and stopped by the concession stands to buy a drink or food made a difference by giving money to the cause, Malek said.

One person who played in the tournament was Sam Aguirre, who played on the Yosemite Waters-sponsored team.

"When we were first told about this, nobody at work hesitated at all. We wanted to come out here and show our support," said Aguirre, of Brawley. "This is a great cause and it was great that everyone showed up and showed support. I really hope they keep doing something like this."

Said Imperial County Fire Chief Joe Buzo: "I thought the guys did a great job of putting together this whole thing. This is a really good cause to help out our fellow firefighters. But without our community and the support, we wouldn't have been able to do any of this. This was an entire community effort."

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