ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- Organizers of the 28th Annual Guns ‘N Hoses boxing event to benefit the families of emergency responders killed in the line of duty have announced this year’s event will be postponed.
“It breaks our hearts,” said Ron Battelle, the Executive Director of The Backstoppers Inc., in an exclusive interview with Fox 2.
Battelle is also the former St. Louis County Police Chief.
The Backstoppers organization provides financial assistance to the spouses and children of emergency responders who die in the line of duty. The organization serves 18 Missouri and Illinois counties surrounding St. Louis.
Guns ‘N Hoses is the top fundraiser of the year for The Backstoppers.
Firefighters and police officers from area departments square off against each other in boxing matches at Scottrade Center on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving every year.
Not this year.
The continued unrest in Ferguson has put heavy demands on emergency responders across the region, inhibiting the volunteer fighters’ ability to train, organizers said. Those demands will likely continue to impact behind-the-scenes organizational efforts emergency responders donate to the cause every year.
There are also concerns about attendance. The event drew about 17,000 people last year, with emergency responders, their friends, and families, making up a significant portion of the crowd.
The top concern is public safety, organizers said. They want to make sure everyone is available for duty with things in Ferguson continuing to unfold.
A grand jury decision on whether to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, is expected this month.
“Our focus is honoring the lives of those who have died in the line of duty and providing support to their families,” Battelle said. “To hold the event at this time could serve as a distraction – and a disservice – to those fallen heroes and their families who deserve our full attention and support.”
He stressed the event was postponed and not canceled.
Organizers hope to hold Guns ‘N Hoses after the New Year and return to the traditional date next November, Battelle said.
Any tickets already sold will be good for the rescheduled event.