Los Banos police dodging balls for a good cause

By Charles Guest / cguest@losbanosenterprise.comMarch 14, 2013 

Los Banos police were dodging balls Saturday instead of bullets in an effort to raise money.

Members of the department joined firefighters and others in sending balls sailing in Oliviera Park during the third annual Fight of Justice Dodge Ball Tournament.

"We're trying to raise some money for Valley Children's Hospital, (and) have a good time," said Marcelino Cortez, a Los Banos police officer playing for The Gladiators, a five-man dodge-ball team. "It's a good cause. It was very fun and very exciting -- obviously, it's quite competitive with all of the law enforcement teams here."

Many participants brought their families. Dispatchers and Los Banos Police Department Explorers watched over children who occupied themselves with games and other activities.

The 19 teams of five each were made up of officers from Turlock and Ceres, the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Corrections, a handful of lawyers from the district attorney's office and people from private companies.

There was Kiss My Ash, the Los Banos Firefighters Association team; Marinara Mamas from Kagome Foods; Balls of Destruction, a team of eighth-graders from Dos Palos; and the Goon Squad, a team made up of members of the Merced County Sheriff's Department Corrections Division. The latter showed up with olive-drab shirts adorned with the Monopoly game logo of a jailer with a nightstick raised over his head taking a suspect to jail.

Los Banos officer Paul Llanez hosted the tournament. Llanez is the chief executive officer of Knowledge Saves Lives Inc., the presenting sponsor of the tournament. Llanez said that the tournament originally was a way for the department to help one of its own.

"This event was started for one of the Los Banos police officers, Noah Jones, (his daughter died in 2010) so we did a fundraiser because the family was going back and forth to Children's Hospital (Central California in Madera) every single day," said Llanez.

The previous fundraiser was so popular that people were asking for Llanez and his crew to do it again. The tournament is now an annual event.

Each team donated $150 to play. Sponsors included Central Valley Arms Gun Store, State Farm Insurance, Food4Less, Dutra's Towing and Premier Pool and Spa, which also helped with event shirts. The snack bar sold enough to put $1,000 into the donation pool.

There was no total on the amount raised, but Llanez said he is confident that it will surpass last year's $2,300.

The proceeds will be donated in the name of Jayden Thomas, a 10-year-old fifth-grader from Volta Elementary School who was killed in November in a vehicle accident. Jayden was returning home from a football game at the time of the crash.

Members of Jayden's family attended the dodge ball tournament. They said they were pleased that shirts, which were being sold to help Children's Hospital, featured Jayden's name and jersey number on the back.

The winner of the tournament was What Would Jesus Dodge, consisting of the Los Banos Police Officers Association. Within the next few weeks, the team will accompany Llanez to Children's Hospital Central California to present the money.

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