COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The First Responder Faceoff Foundation held its annual First Responder Face-Off Saturday between the Columbus police and Columbus fire departments.

It was the first year the game was back at the Schottenstein Center since 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization aims to provide resources to first responders and their families.

The Columbus firefighter hockey team took the victory against the police team, but everyone agrees this game is about so much more.

“We had a fallen officer Steve Smith here in Columbus and some of our guys got together here from Columbus police and fire to do something,” said Don Zender, director of First Responder Faceoff Foundation. “What can we do hockey-wise to really make a difference, support the family, create awareness?”

That was seven years ago, and out of it came the Face-Off, the foundation’s main fundraiser.

The money goes towards the Hockey Helping Heroes Program, supporting first responders and their families in a number of ways.

“We’ll do scholarships for children of fallen officers and firefighters, we’ll assist those families however we need to,” Zender said. “In some specific cases, we will have a fundraising game just for that family.”

The foundation also supports philanthropic and research efforts in the area of early detection of health and occupational disease like cancer.

“It’s a great thing to be able to come out here and do that for our fellow brothers and sisters,” said Blake Griffith, a player for the Columbus Division of Police.

Others feel the same.

“Our job is a privilege to get to do what we do, but then have the opportunity to raise money for charity, to look at the kids, I almost don’t have the words for it,” Columbus Division of Fire player Chris Janiak said.

For Zender, it was great to see everyone back at the Schott.

“I think it’s wonderful, but more importantly, you see the fans getting into it,” he said. “They’re cheering on first responders; you know, it hasn’t been easy the last couple of years and just to see that support is incredible.”

He encourages anyone who’d like to learn more to visit their website by clicking here.