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Mass. First Responders Compete to Raise Money for Veterans' Nonprofit

The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.

The city's ultimate rivalry returns to the softball field this weekend with the annual double-elimination championship game that pits four teams from the police, fire, city grounds departments and Brewster ambulance against each other for bragging rights and to raise money for a good cause.

Every year, the teams compete against each other to raise money for organizations that help veterans and emergency responders. This year's game will raise money for Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit that every December coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies for veterans graves at Arlington National Cemetery and more than 1,600 other cemeteries across the United State, at sea and abroad.

The first game in the all-day, family-friendly event kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Pageant Field, 1 Merrymount Parkway.

Last year Quincy participated for the first time ever, laying thousands of wreaths on graves of veterans buried a Mount Wollaston Cemetery, an effort that took thousands of dollars and participation from hundreds of Quincy residents and families.

"Our first year was very successful," said Christine Cugini, the volunteer organizer who coordinates the Wreaths Across America effort in Quincy. "We raised enough money to lay 3,200 wreathes just at Mount Wollaston and now this year, we're moving the goal up and looking to raise enough to lay wreath on all of our veterans graves in Quincy."

There are about 7,300 veterans buried across Quincy's six city cemeteries as well as in St. Mary's cemetery, said George Bouchard, the graves registration officer with Quincy's veterans services department.

"These veterans who are no longer with us need to be remembered," said Bouchard. "I think it has a lot to do with the youngsters who often just look at the gravestone, this helps let them know what service is all about."

Each of the players, around 70 total across all four teams, will donate $25 to participate. Cugini said she will have information packets available for residents who also wish donate and directed people to donate online by visiting wreathsacrossamerica.org and searching for Quincy. Wreaths cost $30 per gravestone.

Scottie Logan, general foreman at Mount Wollaston Cemetery, is helping to organize the event as well as lead the team that represents Quincy employees from the departments of parks, forestry, cemeteries and public works.

He said the day promises to be one full of fun for the whole family. There will be a bouncy house for children and the firefighters will be cooking up hotdogs and hamburgers to share, he said.

Last year Logan's team nearly tied with the firefighters, so he said they will be the team to beat this year, but stressed that the day is really about building community and showing support.

"This really is a friendly and fun way to raise money, compete against each other and have fun," he said. "The bottom line is to get everybody out there and collect as much as we can for the cause."

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