The South Dakota Firefighters Benefit – A Huge Success

Recently, Willie Wines Jr. and I were out in South Dakota. We took at trip across the State in a Spartan ERV engine. We toured the Spartan factory in Brandon, SD, and we attended and spoke at the 1st Annual South Dakota Firefighters Benefit. Needless to say, it was an awesome trip. I wrote a post on the trip across the State, but I never banged out a post about the actual Benefit. Read about the trip across the State here (including some info on each firehouse we stopped at). Keep scrolling down to read about the Benefit.

Willie wrote about it here, here, and here.

Bob Gard, a firefighter in Canton, SD came up with the idea for the South Dakota FF Benefit. He contacted me when he thought it up, we had never met or talked. His plan was to get Willie and I out their speaking. That would be one part of the event. Over the following months, more ideas came to Bob and he incorporated much of them into the plans for the event.

What Bob was doing hadn’t really been done before that any of us could recollect. Sure, there are State level association meetings, conferences, and expositions but not an event like this one. Adam Frick lent a hand in helping Bob plan the event, and after it was all over with there were many others who wanted to help with next years event.

The basic premise of the event according to Bob was to simply create a fun event that was centered around Firefighters having fun and fellowship. Basically, it was a way of bringing South Dakota’s Firefighters together. Not that they don’t get along, but they so spread out across the State and this would be an opportunity for them to rub shoulders and have fun.

The night included a mixer at the beginning for everyone to get comfortable and mingle. It continued with dinner blessed by our good friend Father Frank McNeil (Lennox FD’s Fire Chaplain). Following that Captain Wines and I spoke followed by a live auction of some great items, the drawing of the raffle for the Custom Phenix “343” leather, and the silent auction of almost 30 lots of great firefighting products. The night ended with some drinks and dancing (I drank, Willie danced).

Willie and I had a blast.

Some of the great prizes we auctioned off were from the sponsors: They include Spartan ERVRide Backwards,All About TravelFranklin SilveradoFirehouse BreweryGrand Falls Casino ResortAllegiant Emergency ServicesPhenix Fire Helmets, Danko Emergency Equipment, Sanford HealthGoeman AuctionFarm Country Trader IncBoltes SanitationDarleyMSA CairnsResQmeTrue North GearMn8 ProductsBlack HelmetFatIvanPelican,Wall Shields, and Black Jack Helmet Holder among others. 

These custom “corn hole” or “bean bag” boards were built by Wall Shields. They were the hottest ticket in the live auction.

As for our small part in this equation, Willie and I had planned on speaking about Brotherhood in an effort to explain what “Brotherhood” means to us and ways to bring it back to the fire service. After our trip across the State, we decided to not do our talk and instead explain what we had seen in each firehouse we had gone to. After all, while we had gone to South Dakota with open minds, we ended up learning so much more than we could have ever taught. We wanted the Brotherhood in SD to know about the small and big things we had seen in hopes of some of their traditions being spread throughout the State.

It only took our first stop in Keystone to realize that what we knew about the Fire Service was small in comparison to what we were about to learn.

As I said before, the benefit was first and foremost about the Brotherhood in SD, and the firefighters having a good time. The byproduct of that was to raise money for the National Firefighters endowment and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. I have not heard the final numbers, and as I explained to Bob that the first year of anything has a certain learning curve to it. If the event was able to raise $5 for each organization, that is $5 they didn’t have before.

Either way, I feel certain that Bob and Adam have learned a ton about the benefit and will be able to really make the 2nd annual benefit an even larger success!

I have attached photos below, you can also view 100’s of photos at the Fire Critic Facebook Page.