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American Leadership Academy – Gilbert North hosts his fifth annual First Responder Appreciation football game on Friday, when he hosts his sister school, the American Leadership Academy – Queen Creek.

The event, which will start at 5 p.m. and lead to the kick-off of the game between the two schools at 7.15 p.m., will honor a large number of first responders, including local police, firefighters, US Marshals, police departments. county and active and veteran military. Randy Ricedorff, athletic director and head football coach at ALA – Gilbert, said the event is simply meant to show appreciation to those who protect the freedoms of the American people on a daily basis.

“We do pre-game signings before every home game,” said Ricedorff. “We honor moms, dads, teachers, and we’ve always made one for first responders. Now it’s on a whole new level. It’s a good event for the recognition that first responders deserve.

Ricedorff started this type of event in 2016 while he was at Show Low. Before one of his team’s matches, a local policeman was killed while on duty at a nearby apartment complex. His team honored him and his family in their next game. It has since taken off.

On Friday, the ceremony will begin transcribing thank you letters to first responders at 5 p.m. Friday will be followed by a barbecue for all the first responders attending the game at 6 p.m. game to personally thank them themselves.

A pre-match ceremony will take place at 6:40 p.m., where first responders will be led onto the pitch by bagpipes. Just before kick-off, the two teams of Gilbert and Queen Creek will appear on the field with American flags.

Ricedorff said each player will hold a flag from both teams.

“We’re not trying to say ‘Oh look at me’,” Ricedorff said. “This is not what it is. It is about being respectful to those who have served and doing our best to honor them. This is just a small token of appreciation. “

Honoring first responders is nothing new for both ALA schools. In Gilbert, nearly 70 US flags are placed by one of the school’s athletic programs throughout its campus near Higley Road and San Tan Highway 202 before each Friday home football game. A separate athletic team then takes them down at the end of the night.

Last year, first responders were similarly honored, including having a searchlight from a Mesa Police Department helicopter lighting up the pitch before kickoff.

On the weekend of September 11, ALA – Gilbert joined with other local programs to carry 13 US flags to the field to honor fallen soldiers in Afghanistan in late August. The nearby Campo Verde High School paid the same tribute and installed 13 empty seats on its track near the field in honor of the soldiers.

Valley Christian in Chandler also hosted a first responders night. Perry, also located near ALA’s Gilbert North campus, wore special American flag-inspired jerseys during his match against rival Basha.

“Our school is very patriotic and really tries to make it clear that we have freedoms, and we have to be thankful for those freedoms and the country we live in,” Ricedorff said. “I think it’s just good for our children and everyone involved to remember what we have as members of this country and not take any of our freedoms for granted.”

Ricedorff expects a large crowd for this special evening. In the past, there were only standing places.

Members of the Gilbert community flocked to the school to honor those who protect their freedoms. Children enjoy the spectacle of the helicopter spotlights, bagpipes and pre-game fireworks as well as a football game.

All in all, it’s a party that Ricedorff not only enjoys throwing every year, but his players are also proud of, whether they win or lose.

“We have to remember that there are people who fight and die on a daily basis to protect these freedoms. They deserve our utmost respect, ”said Ricedorff. “I think there are times in our lives that we are all guilty of taking these things for granted.”