Sign-ups open for 2017 Battle for the Bridge football fundraiser
There's still time.
If you want to play in the final Battle for the Bridge — the annual West Linn vs. Oregon City alumni football game that raises money to combat cystic fibrosis — there's still time to sign up, strap on the pads and hit somebody for a good cause.
Tickets to the event cost $12 per person on the day of the game or $10 per person online. Beyond ticket sales, additional funds will be raised through concessions, a beer garden, sideline passes, 50/50 raffles and more.
Why they play
Beyond just the longstanding West Linn-Oregon City high school football rivalry — it's been going on for 96 years now — the people behind the Battle for the Bridge have a more important reason to play.
Their fundraising efforts over seven years — including this summer's 5K/10K fun run in June — have collected more than $130,000 to help fight cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.
Ian Giammanco, chair and co-founder of the Battle for the Bridge — along with his wife Sara — has been there since the beginning, fighting to make things better for people battling cystic fibrosis, including his daughter Sophia, now 10.
"I've been on the board since the get-go," said Giammanco, a 1994 graduate of West Linn. "My daughter Sophia has cystic fibrosis so that was kind of the original inspiration to start this."
For Austin Gibbs, 17 and a 2017 graduate of Reynolds High School, the chance to participate in this year's game means a lot. In addition to his love of football — he was a wide receiver and defensive back for the Raiders last fall — Gibbs has cystic fibrosis.
"I saw this on the news a few years ago and I thought it was really cool because nobody knows about CF," said Gibbs, who will quarterback and captain one of this year's teams.
Gibbs also said he appreciated the fundraising associated with the game alomg with the way it informs people about cystic fibrosis.
"When you tell people about (cystic fibrosis), they go 'Oh. What's that?'" he said. "It's a lung disease to sum it up. Then they usually go 'Oh. I hope you get better.'"
The Final Battle
This year's game is being billed as "The Final Battle," but that's only partly accurate. The 2017 Battle for the Bridge marks the final football game in the series, but not the end of the group's fundraising efforts nor the end of the Battle for the Bridge.
Norman, a 2001 West Linn graduate who's played in all six football games, said the group was phasing out the football game and ramping up attention on the Battle CF 5K & 10K Run/Walk. Norman said that 138 people signed up for this year's event, 99 eventually ran (the number slightly down due to the day's heat) and thus far, it has brought in more than $4,000.
"We're phasing (the football game) out because interest wanes over the years," Norman said. "I'm not saying this can't come back in the future, but we just want to keep the fundraising going without having so much impact on players."
The success of this year's Battle CF 5K & 10K Run/Walk has convinced the Battle for the Bridge's board — which includes several representatives from both Oregon City and West Linn — that its headed in the right direction.
"We want to make that the flagship event to replace the football game," Norman said. "Next year, we want 500 people (to run) so we're really trying to build that event and hope it takes off and gets some momentum."
Why they dance
While much of the attention is focused on the game itself, there's more to the day's activities, too. There are more people who are part of the event and more people who are dedicated to helping raise money to fight cystic fibrosis — among them, the dance team that entertains fans at halftime.
Megan Gomez, a 1996 Oregon City graduate whose 7-year-old daughter Jalea has cystic fibrosis, has been coming to the game since its inception. Initially, she just came to watch and learn more about CF, but now, she's in her fourth year as part of the dance team.
"The first game, (Jalea) was only a year-and-a-half old," Gomez said. "I was still learning about CF and how to care for a child with it so coming to the first game was very overwhelming. It was great to see the level of support from two communities coming together for a cause."
Over time, Gomez learned from and became part of the CF community that has grown up around the Battle for the Bridge. And with that familiarity, Gomez — a former member of the Oregon City Jets dance team — eventually decided she was ready to become a participant.
"I worked up the nerve — I'm an Oregon City Jet alumni — and I finally put my foot in the water and joined the alumni team and I've been performing since then."
While the football game is fun and the dance team is entertaining, Gomez understands as well as anyone the serious reason behind all of the Battle for the Bridge activities.
"It was encouraging to see other people who have experience with it because I had no knowledge of CF before I had my daughter," she said. I want "to be a part of it and help bring as many people into it as we can and raise money for a good cause, hope for more developments and treatments and all that kind of stuff."
A longstanding success
Over time, the Battle for the Bridge has become known as a consistent fundraiser for CF, serving the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Oregon for six years and the Boomer Esiason Foundation for one year.
"We thought it was going to be a one-time shot (when we started), but here we are," Giammanco said. "A lot of great people have stepped up, that serve on the board and from the community that are responsible for perpetuating this."
Along the way, the Battle for the Bridge has been a success — and a surprise — to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Oregon.
"Initially, they were really surprised that guys would have an interest in playing football and that we've stuck around as long as we have and kept it going," Giammanco said. "Neither of us (Giammanco or Norman) are black tie auction kind of guys so we wanted to find a way around that, to do something that involved the community, and it's been awesome."