The Kansas Police and Fire Athletic Association (KPFAA) serves many municipal first response agencies in the Midwest region of the United States. The KPFAA came into existence over two years ago when organizer Dan Atkeson heard the alarming statistic that heart attacks are the leading cause of line-of-duty firefighter deaths. Atkeson decided to utilize his background in wellness and fitness to create KPFAA with the purpose of “building healthier officers, for better service, for safer communities.”

“After many years of working with school children in fire prevention programs, I know the impact we firefighters can have as role models,” explained Atkeson. “Why not be role models of health and help stimulate and encourage the nearly one-third of our children that are currently obese? I feel we can have a huge impact in our communities with the right kind of programs geared toward health and wellness of our school-aged children.”

Before the children can be reached, however, the firefighters and other emergency personnel had to embrace the idea. This is where approximately 100 Fire Corps volunteers came in handy. The volunteers donated a combined time of 2,500 hours to produce the Heart of America Police and Fire Games in 2008, which has been renamed The Heart of America Emergency Service Games for 2009. The games promote activity and sports with a common goal of improving health and wellness.

The Fire Corps volunteers were vital to ensuring that the 2008 event was a success and ran smoothly. The duties included keeping score, acting as referees, distributing water, entering data, setting up, and tearing down. Additionally, a handful of volunteers were active in planning, coordinating, web design, and event fundraising.

Last year, 175 first responders participated in the games. This year, the goal is to have 500 participants. The increased size of the event will mean even more volunteers are needed in 2009, but KPFAA is not worried. Atkeson explains, “When the public see healthy and fit police/fire/EMS personnel, it makes them feel safe. As a result, they are eager to help us in our games concept.”

Thanks to the dedication of the Fire Corps volunteers for making the games possible, many participants were inspired to practice healthier habits while working to protect and serve their respective communities. As one competitor explains, “I received the gold medal in the games for the competition Train Like a Freak. It inspired me to work hard at losing 60 pounds and making better lifestyle choices.”

For more information about the KPFAA or how to participate in The Heart of America Emergency Service Games, visit www.kpfaa.net or contact Dan Atkeson at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (316) 650-3394.

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