Dodgeball benefits firefighter's sons

Norwich - After the pumped-up athletes were introduced, after the ear-splitting music died down and the fake fog faded, members of the Norwich Fire Department slowly walked onto the gymnasium floor at Norwich Free Academy.

Everyone in the bleachers at the "2012 Rose City Dodgeball Tournament" stood and applauded.

"Let's take a moment of silence for Ben DeMond and remember why we are doing this tonight,'' said Greg MacDonald, a Norwich police officer who organized Saturday night's event.

DeMond, a 33-year-old Norwich firefighter, was killed in a car crash in March on Interstate 395 by an alleged drunken driver. Saturday's fundraiser was for his two young sons, who were with him in the car and seriously injured in the crash.

"We're honored that people care enough to come out on a Saturday and spend their money,'' Norwich Fire Capt. Scott Merchant, who worked with DeMond, said before the games got under way. "It's fabulous."

DeMond's family did not attend the games, but Merchant said the boys are doing well, "considering.''

Cole, who was 4 at the time of the crash, was released from the hospital a few days later and has recovered from his injuries, Merchant said. His older brother Alex, who was 6 at the time and critically injured, was hospitalized for more than a month. Merchant said he is still healing from internal injuries and broken bones.

"But both boys came to the station and were running around, full of life,'' Merchant said.

The firefighters, and more than a hundred others from the Norwich Police Department, State Police, Electric Boat Fire Department, Southeast CrossFit, Norwich Adult Probation, and students from NFA, showed up to play a couple of hours of competitive dodgeball.

The wives of Norwich police officers formed their own team and called themselves "All Dodge, No Ball.''

"It's a wonderful and great event, and we're glad to be part of it,'' Chelsea Gromko said. "Police and firefighters - it's all a brotherhood."

Around the firehouse, things are getting back to normal and "are as good as can be,'' Merchant said.

But there are constant reminders of DeMond, especially when it comes to sports. Merchant said DeMond was a great athlete and would have liked the competition.

"He was a big kid himself,'' Merchant said. "He's sorely missed."

Saturday's event raised about $2,000, organizers said. MacDonald plans to make the dodgeball tournament an annual tradition, with proceeds going to different local causes.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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