CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Football fans passed, ran and scored to raise money for servicemembers and first responders in the local community here during the Buddy Bowl Nov. 24.
More than 300 servicemembers and civilians gathered at the flag-football tournament, which raised more than $19,000 in donations for charities who promote active lifestyles for wounded veterans and first responders.
One of the recipients is the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which provides athletic equipment, competition and training expenses for many sports, said Nico Marcolongo, a retired Marine and president of the non-profit organization.
The Buddy Bowl started in 1977 when Point Loma High School graduates began meeting on the beach for football games. With a desire to get more military involved, Marcolongo relocated the annual event here in 1998. Soon after the move, a helicopter crashed off the coast of Point Loma, killing six servicemembers.
“Four of the Marines had been from my unit,” Marcolongo explained. “I passed a can around the event and $550 was raised for the families.”
The impromptu fundraising was the beginning of the Bowl as a charity event.
The Buddy Bowl is unique because it is the only annual event in the U.S. that raises money for military, first responders and their families through a community based flag football tournament that includes both physically-challenged and able-bodied participants, Marcolongo said.
Jeff Buras, an electrician for Roen Electric and team member of the championship team, Blood Bath, said his team has been participating in the Buddy Bowl for 10 years and intends to continue the tradition as long as the cause still remains.