Sellout crowd fills Enterprise Center for Guns ‘N Hoses as first responders enter ring to raise money for BackStoppers

Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 10:20 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- The ding of the bell signals the first boxing pair to bump gloves to start the 35th Annual Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses event at the Enterprise Center Wednesday.

“Some of my friends I worked with had been killed or died,” Retired St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer Russell Allen shared. “BackStoppers jumped in. It’s good.”

Police officers entering the ring sported a blue stripe on their shorts, while firefighters and EMS personnel had a red line down their shorts. Everyone was there to honor fallen brothers and sisters.

“It hurts, it’s humbling,” St. Louis Fire Department Chief Dennis Jenkerson explained. “To have the community help us grieve and help us celebrate their life, that’s what St. Louis does.

Seven fallen police officers and firefighters were honored Wednesday.

  • Chief Todd Werner, South Roxanna Fire Department EOW 7/1/21
  • Detective Antonio Valentine, St. Louis County Police Department EOW 12/1/21
  • Captain Ivan LaGrand, Cape Girardeau Fire Department EOW 12/1/21
  • Firefighter Benjamin Polson, St. Louis Fire Department EOW 1/13/22
  • Chief Don Riff, Jefferson College Police Department EOW 1/20/22
  • Chief Kevin Cremer, Festus Fire Department EOW 1/24/22
  • Officer Lane Burns, Bonne Terre Police Department EOW 3/17/22

Watching it unfold from up top inside Enterprise Center were siblings Kaitlin and Josh Riffe, whose father was Chief Don Riffe of the Jefferson College Police Department. He was retired, working for the Jefferson College Police Department. He died due to complications with COVID.

“Being survivors ourselves, we have an unspoken understanding with other families,” Riffe’s daughter explained. “Maybe not understanding their situation but knowing what that loss feels like and how important it is for the community to step in and that financial support when their loved one is gone.”

“He’s gone, but he will always be here with us,” Josh Riffe shared. ‘What a better way to have us together, make this an annual occurrence. we will already be together either way so this will happen every year.

The brother and sister duo created a non-profit, Operation Sheepdog, to honor their dad. The group provides funding for law enforcement recruits going through the police academy. Riffe said this effort reflects the massive impact of Guns ‘N Hoses.

“It’s a mix of realizing a small group of people can do a massive amount of good while also honoring the legacy of my father who was so generous,” Kaitlin Riffe said.

Vice President of Guns ‘N Hoses Jesse Finney says this event is the envy of so many cities across the nation. His excitement for this year’s event comes from the fact it’s the first full-scale event since 2019 because of the pandemic. His team’s goal is to raise more than $1 million to surpass last year’s final total.

“Thanks to events such as Guns ‘N Hoses, we are able to provide about $2.5 million in assistance each year to approximately 95 families and 75 children,” said Chief Ron Battelle, executive director of The BackStoppers. “It is our hope that we never need to take on a new family, but in the aftermath of tragedy we will take on the responsibility to care for the loved ones of those that gave all to protect us.”

Guns ‘N Hoses once again featured boxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) matches between police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel from Missouri and Illinois. Last year the two teams fought to a 6-6 draw. For the first time in seven years, the red team defeated the blue team 9-3.

Anyone who did not attend Wednesday night but still wants to help can make a donation to BackStoppers.