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Hockey game to help fire victims: Smoke Eaters vs. Law Dogs returns Saturday

April 11, 2019 GMT

VICTORY TWP. — Smoke Eaters vs. Law Dogs, the sixth annual charity hockey event, returns to West Shore Community Ice Arena this Saturday, with the opening ceremony at 6 p.m. and the game starting at 6:30 p.m.

The Smoke Eaters ice hockey team is made up of firefighters and medical first responders, and the Law Dogs team includes police, sheriff’s deputies, and corrections and conservation officers that serve in Mason County or who just want to help the fundraiser cause.

Admission is free, but people are encouraged to make a freewill donation. Proceeds from the event and donations will benefit the Mason County Fire Relief Fund. The fund gives money to Mason County residents who are displaced by fires in their homes.

Smoke Eaters vs. Law Dogs usually raises $2,000 to $3,000, said Rob Rudzki, president of the Mason County Fire Relief Fund.

“We use those funds to assist victims of structure fires in Mason County that are unable to remain in their home,” he said, adding that the Red Cross also assists fire victims. “The Red Cross is pretty quick, but sometimes insurance can take awhile. We have funds available before the fire is even put out.”

The money is given to fire victims in their time of need, and they can use it to stay in a hotel or to meet other necessities, Rudzki said.

“We were lucky to have only had, I think, two (house) fires since our last game,” said Justin Melchert, vice-president of the relief fund. “But other years before, we’ve had seven or eight. If you have a year with a lot of fires, that money can get burned up real quick.”

Rudzki is a paramedic for Life EMS and a Custer firefighter, and Melchert is a firefighter and EMT for Hamlin Township, so both of them will be rooting for the Smoke Eaters, but they said the hockey game isn’t about winning. It’s about having good-natured fun and raising funds for a worthy cause.

“It’s a lot of family fun and there’s a lot of laughs to be had,” Melchert said.

To read the full story, check out the print or E-edition of Thursday’s Ludington Daily News.