SKOWHEGAN, Maine- It seemed fitting that amongst the endless rain this spring and summer, even the sun knew enough to come out and shine in Skowhegan for the opening ceremonies of the Second Annual Corporal Eugene Cole Softball Tournament, made up of 16 teams of first responders from Jackman to Cumberland.
"Holding this tournament in his honor is just something I want to keep doing mainly because he meant so much to the community, and this is my way to kind of show that, and present it to everyone and their families, and hope that it's not only just this that happens- that the community comes out and they want to do other things as well,” said Deputy Tyler Lefrenier of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.
The tournament was put together last year in the wake of Corporal Cole’s death in the line of duty, to raise money for Cole’s family. This year, the Cole family decided to have the tournament’s proceeds donated to State Police Detective Ben Campbell's family, after Campbell also lost his life in a tragic accident this past April.
"Very humbling to know that all the people in the community and throughout the state support both the blue line family and the red line families,” Trooper Sam Tlumac of the Maine State Police said. “It doesn't matter what color uniform or what department you're from. It's about the safety of the officers and the brotherhood.”
Folks at the tournament who knew Corporal Cole say he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
"He'd be very happy knowing that we're not just trying to help his family, We are trying to help another family of a fallen officer." Lafrenier said.
"He's out here watching us,” added Augusta firefighter Anthony Barton, a tournament co-organizer along with Lafrenier. “His sons playing softball today. His wife is here supporting us. And he'd be right here with us if it was for another officer that was in need or got hurt, or anything like that, too. So again, all of us- something happens, we're there."
There’s also a 5k and half marathon held in Corporal Cole’s honor as well, coming up in August. A race that last year raised over fifty thousand dollars. So softball isn’t the only way that folks have banded together to help the families of first responders. And money isn’t the only reason.
"To show continued support to the Cole family and to our law enforcement officers,” said Race Director of the Cpl Cole 5k & Half Marathon Jessica Gleason. “To build community, and to help everybody heal.”
While the tournament is a good time for a good cause, the players didn’t want to just leave it that.
"It is competitive,” Barton said. “Last year, teams fought till the end and then this year they’re going again. I don't know if you saw the trophy, but that's what they are all going for, and the bragging rights. And they'll be here again next year for the same thing."
Deputy Lafrenier said, “I'd like to play the state police."
To which Trooper Tlumac replied, "Bring it on, Tyler."