Who knew a game of football could change a person or a family’s life, including one from White Salmon?
On Sept. 22, law enforcement from Oregon and Washington will face off in a friendly charity football game called the Pig Bowl. Proceeds from the game will go to three Gorge families, chosen by the Pig Bowl Board.
“The Pig Bowl has a pretty long history and has changed a bit over time,” said Senior Oregon State Trooper and Pig Bowl organizer Michael Holleran.
The idea of the Pig Bowl began in Sacramento, Calif., in 1974 as a friendly rivalry between Sacramento law enforcement and the fire department, “Hogs vs Dogs.” It found its way to Oregon in the late ‘90s when two Marion County Sheriff’s deputies organized it as a fundraiser for the local Boys & Girls Club.
“Rumor has it that the Pig Bowl was played two or three times in the late 1980s or early 1990s with local law enforcement versus local businesses. If you spend any time in downtown The Dalles, you’ll likely run into someone who played in one of these sporadically held events. However, no one seems to remember much about it or when the games took place,” according to the history section of the Pig Bowl website.
The first official Pig Bowl in the Gorge raised money to help a well-known community member in The Dalles, Willie Funk, pay for a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with leukemia in 2003. Oregon law enforcement faced off against Les Schwab employees who worked with Funk.
“The game was coined as Cops versus Schwabers,” said Holler-an.
The game raised over $3,000 for Funk, who has been cancer free since 2007.
“So, almost every year since then we have picked out a family in need and played and raised money in honor of them,” said Holleran.
In 2008, the game changed from being cops versus Les Schwab to Oregon law enforcement versus Washington law enforcement to raise money for the family of, and to honor, Klickitat Sheriff Deputy Peter Garland, who was killed in the line of duty.
As the Pig Bowl has grown, so has its ability to help more families. In 2016 the Pig Bowl raised over $40,000 for two families and over $30,000 for three families in 2017.
“Families are nominated and then our board goes through and chooses. It’s getting harder and harder to choose each year because there are so many deserving families, that’s why we chose three families last year and this year,” said Heather Walters, a board member for the Pig Bowl.
This year’s recipients are the families of Angela Zapien, of White Salmon, and Elijah Pishion and Jase Gibson, of Dufur, Ore.
Zapien and her family were nominated to the Pig Bowl by a therapist at Whitson Elementary School, who cares for the 6-year-old while she’s at school.
“Angela was born with the Genetic Mutation KCN Q2, Cortical Visual Impairment, Cerebral Palsy, and a seizure disorder. She uses a G-tube to eat and a wheelchair for mobility. Angelina Heredia, her doting mother, as well as Angela’s grandmother, are her primary caregivers, but as you can imagine this is a full-time job and a struggle. They reside in a two-story house making navigation nearly impossible for Angela in her wheelchair. As part of her ongoing physical therapy, they have seen great improvement in her mobility through the use of a therapeutic bike, unfortunately, these don’t come cheap. Angela is such a blessing to her proud family, and as they help navigate every step of her journey, we hope to ease the many struggles they humbly face,” says the biography about Angela on the Pig Bowl Facebook page.
The Enterprise spoke with Zapien’s mother Angelina, who said, “This is such a blessing and we are so thankful.”
The interesting aspect about the Pig Bowl is how its played. It’s regular football, with touchdowns equaling six points and field goals equaling three, but the scoreboard at the end of the game can be somewhere in the thousands.
“It may sound strange, but one signature of the Pig Bowl is that most of the scoring doesn’t happen on the field, it happens in the stands! People who attend the Pig Bowl purchase points for their favorite team. Pig Bowl Announcer Rod Runyon happily announces the business or individual who buys the points and of course which team on the field gets the score,” according to the explanation on the Pig Bowl website.
“It’s called ‘buy a touchdown.’ Pay $50 for a touchdown, $25 for a field goal and $5 for the extra point after a touchdown, tell the announcer who you are and what team you are donating to, and the points go on the board,” said Holleran.
If you are looking to do some good this weekend and not sick of watching football, head to The Dalles High School football field on Sept. 22. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. There will be food, games, and prizes for kids, as well.