Fire Bowl hopes to score big for community

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Mayor Joseph Polisena sat inside the crowded Johnston Town Hall conference room early Tuesday afternoon and said, “I’m giving a check for one hundred dollars and so is my counterpart from North Providence, Mayor Charles Lombardi.”

Soon there after, Polisena thanked Keith Calci, Jon Pistacchio and Adam Barros who represented the Johnston Association of Firefighters and members of Local 1950 for what they are doing in regards to hosting Fire Bowl IV, which as the Mayor noted is “much, much more than just a Flag Football Game.”

Fire Bowl IV is a game of goodwill that will be played Saturday afternoon, with kickoff at one o’clock at Mayor Joseph Polisena Stadium, matching Johnston against the North Providence Firefighters who are hoping to break all records for canned goods and non-perishable food items.

“Our goal this year is to fill a [Johston Fire Department] rescue from top-to-bottom and front-to-back with non-perishable foods,” said JFD Chief Tim McLaughlin. “We’re told there’s an even greater need for food this Thanksgiving and both our departments would like to put a dent in that total.”

So while Polisena and Lombardi each will donate $100 to benefit the Tri-County Community Action Agency, Local 1950, as well as North Providence Local 2334, will also be giving sizeable donations as they have in the three previous Fire Bowls.

Likewise, as Calci, who serves as president of the always-generous Local 1950, and his North Providence Local 2334 counterpart John Laurie said during Tuesday’s Fire Bowl IV press conference, that many members of both fire departments also make donations.

While the emphasis is on collecting as much food as possible, there’s another side to Fire Bowl IV that like the previous three builds camaraderie within the community. Polisena and Lombardi have a bet that the losing team’s mayor has to wash the winning team mayor’s official vehicle.

“Let’s see Joe, you owe me two washes,” Lombardi said. “Now, that should be good for at least a wax job.”

The North Providence mayor then echoed the need to fill the Johnston rescue that will be parked at the entrance to Polisena Stadium Saturday.

“We are again delighted to get all these valuable contributions,” Joseph DeSantis, president/CEO of the highly-acclaimed Tri-County Community Action Agency, said Tuesday. “There’s much more need [for food at Thanksgiving] this year; we have received donations from other groups and we hope that this Fire Bowl will put us over the top.”

Polisena and Lombardi issued a joint invitation to the residents of Johnston and North Providence to come to Saturday’s Fire Bowl IV and bring at least two canned goods or non-perishable food items that will take the place of an admission charge.

“We encourage people to also make monetary donations,” said Lombardi, who has worked closely with Polisena on town, school and public projects during his tenure. “This game sparks a lot of interest; it builds camaraderie between our towns with the final result being to put food on people’s plates that otherwise might not have a Thanksgiving dinner.”

Polisena, who like Lombardi has long been a staunch supporter of the Tri-County Community Action Agency, added, “It’s unfortunate that there are people who are in dire need of food. This (Fire Bowl) is about helping put food on our neighbor’s table; let’s hope we fill the stadium and rescue.”

As for DeSantis, he sat silently – with a wide smile on his face – and later said, “can’t tell you how much this means for our agency. I want to personally thank Mayor Polisena and Mayor Lombardi for spearheading this drive. Also, a special thank you to the firefighters of both towns, we’re hoping Fire Bowl IV will have the biggest food collection ever and if so we will be able to meet our needs to help needy families at Thanksgiving.”

The gates at Polisena Stadium will open at 12 noon Saturday with kickoff set for one o’clock.

North Providence has again been thrust as the favorite, given their unbeaten three-game winning streak since both firefighter locals, as well as Polisena and Lombardi, initiated the idea three years ago.

Representatives of the JFD will man the rescue where people may deposit their food donations and if anyone would like to make a monetary gift the check should be made out to the Tri-County Community Action Agency.

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