Taylor police Cpl. Jeff Shewchuck and Firefighter Ron Evina, organizers of the city’s annual police-firefighter softball game, stand near Cpl. Matthew Edwards’ car parked on Priebe Plaza.
TAYLOR — This year’s softball contest between city police officers and firefighters promises to be more than just another game.
Participants have turned the fourth annual event into a fund-raiser for the family of police Cpl. Matthew Edwards, who was killed in the line of duty last month.
The game is scheduled for Friday at Rotary Park, behind the Michigan State Police Post on Telegraph Road. Spectators can start arriving at 4 p.m. The annual home run derby will take place at 6 p.m., followed by the softball game.
Game organizers have asked fans to make a donation when entering the park. Concessions will include food, pop and beer; the event also will feature 50-50 raffles and a silent auction of sports memorabilia and other items. All proceeds will benefit the Edwards family.
Edwards, 31, was shot and killed while responding to a breaking and entering call. He joined the department in January 2005. He was a decorated officer and was named Officer of the Year in 2008 by the Police Officers Association of Michigan. He was the first officer killed in the line of duty in the history of the Taylor Police Department.
Fellow police officers and firefighters have taken Cpl. Edwards’ death hard and considered cancelling the annual softball game, which takes place less than a month after the shooting death.
Instead, they agreed to hold the game and make it a fund-raiser called the Cpl. Matthew Edwards Memorial Charity Softball Game.
“We take care of our own,” said Cpl. Jeff Shewchuk, who has organized the annual softball game since its inception. “The way we lost Matt was horrible. He was truly a very nice guy – a very good Christian. He had no mean streak. He was always in a good mood. Everybody loved talking to him.
“This will be a great outlet for people who didn’t get to donate before. The loss was tragic. We lost a good friend and good police officer. More importantly, his wife and two children lost a great husband and a great dad. This game is another way to raise money for the family.”
Any and all donations will be accepted and will be donated to the Cpl. Edwards Memorial Fund established through the Thin Blue Line of Michigan at PNC Bank.
In the days leading up to the game, police officers, firefighters and volunteer auxiliary police officers will man street corners to accept donations as well.
Evina said Taylor firefighters considered Edwards “a brother.”
“When Matt died, a member of our family died,” Evina said. “We all knew Matt real well. Matt was a police officer and the firefighters are taking it hard, too. We share a brotherhood, a camaraderie (with the police). No words can explain the support we get from those guys.”
Evina comes from a police family. His dad and uncles were police officers.
Shewchuk and Evina said there should be plenty of intensity that was evident in the first three softball games between the two sides. The firefighters won the first two years; the police officers won last year. All three games have been close, exciting and fun.
“The game is going to be friendly, but of course we both want to win,” Evina said. “They beat us in soccer. We haven’t played hockey in a couple years. We feel we’re more superior in softball. It’s always fun.”
“Both sides have their athletes and everybody is in pretty good shape,” Shewchuk said. “The players are experienced and they know what they’re doing.”
Organizers are hoping for a large crowd and large donations.
“It’s for a great charity – for a fallen police officer,” Evina said.
“People should come out to the game and have a good time. This is a family event. And it’s for a great cause. That’s the main thing for us.”
Restaurant to donate portion of food sales
The Taylor Texas Roadhouse,14660 Pardee Road, will donate 10 percent of proceeds from food sales from 3 to 10 p.m. tomorrow, to Edwards’ family.
In addition, spouses of Taylor police officers and friends will bake items that will be sold, with proceeds benefiting the family. Edwards is survived by his wife and two young children.
Police officers will serve as guest wait staff, guest hosts and greeters.
The restaurant is in an outlot of the Taylor Meijer store.
City officials say the community has rallied to support the family. Donations can be made to the Cpl. Matthew Edwards Memorial Fund at PNC Bank, account 4244-507084.