West County Firefighters Battle for a Good Cause
Two firefighters from the West County EMS and Fire Protection District join police and firefighters from around the area in the annual Guns 'N Hoses boxing event for Backstoppers.
The night before Thanksgiving is usually reserved for brining the turkey, baking pies or the arrival of relatives. For Greg Bewig and Brian Hepperman, both firefighters with the West County EMS and Fire Protection District, it's about boxing.
The two are stationed at Firehouse 3 in Town and Country, but will spend their Thanksgiving Eve in the ring at the Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis raising money for Backstoppers in the annual Budweiser Guns 'N Hoses event.
Backstoppers, founded in 1959, provides a safety net for the spouse and children of law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The organization provides financial assistance to survivors such as $5,000 at the time of death, debt assumption and educational costs for children. In Missouri and Illinois, Backstoppers covers a 17-county area, plus the city of St. Louis.
Hepperman, who has never boxed before, has been training for the event since April.
"I just wanted to learn how to box, how to defend myself and the boxing techniques," Hepperman said.
The training is provided at gyms in the region and the boxers are trained by former boxers who also happen to be firefighters or former firefighters. Several times a week, the two meet with their trainers and are put through a high-intensity workout designed to boost endurance in the ring, teach technique and safety. These training sessions are in addition to the training the firefighters do on their own, such as long-distance running.
Both firefighters agree that training for the fights has been a great way to keep in shape for the job they do everyday.
"The department has made a huge commitment to physical fitness, and this has helped a lot," Hepperman said.
"The department has been really supportive," Bewig said. "They let us put up a heavy bag in the station and give us as much time off, between calls, as we need."
"It's also a great stress reliever to work up a good sweat during the day on the heavy bag." Hepperman added.
Bewig, who has fought in Guns 'N Hoses three other times added, "It is for a great cause and that makes the hard work worth it. We go out there to win, but the greater cause is raising money for Backstoppers."
The 2010 Budweiser Guns 'N Hoses boxing event is Wednesday night at the Scottrade Center. There are 17 matches, which means 34 boxers are involved this year, according to event coordinators. In 2009, the event raised $274,000.
Check back Thursday for more on Wednesday night's event!