One Crystal, two Minnetonka and four New Hope police officers laced up their sneakers April 8 for the annual Ballin’ in Dakota County Charity Basketball Tournament, which raises money for the families of fallen officers.
Admission to the Mendota Heights tournament was free, so funds were raised through the raffle and free-will donations. The proceeds benefited the Minnesota chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors, a nonprofit helping survivors of officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Last year’s event raised more than $6,500 for the family of Aitkin County Deputy Steven Sandberg.
Past recipients were the families of Mahnomen County Deputy Chris Dewey, Lake City Officer Shawn Schneider, Cold Spring Officer Thomas Decker, St. Paul Officer Josh Linaw and Mendota Heights Officer Scott Patrick.
“This year, fortunately, we didn’t have an officer who lost their life,” said Booker Hodges, a Ramsey County investigator, former Dakota County Commander and founder of the tournament.
Hodges started the tournament in 2011 after he and a co-worker were discussing their interest in the community and basketball during a surveillance shift.
“We decided to put together this tournament to honor police officers,” he said.
The tournament started with four teams and quickly grew to 12 teams, with more teams on a waiting list.
Hodges hopes to extend the tournament to two days and 24 teams.
This year’s 11 teams, one less than expected because a team dropped out, included approximately 120 players, most of whom were law enforcement officers. Cities and counties from across the metro area were represented at the tournament.
“It means a lot (to be able to help these officers’ families), that’s why I keep doing it,” Hodges said.
Many players, such as New Hope’s Jared Kuyper, a North Education Center school resource officer, return each year to participate.
This year was Kuyper’s third year participating. He said the tournament is a lot of fun and helps families deal with their loss.
Contact Gina Purcell at [email protected]