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Alumnus’ love for Crusade comes full circle

For Sgt. Michael Osborne ’05, his admiration for firefighters and his involvement with the WHAS Crusade for Children have been intertwined his whole life. His godfather, Dale Popp ’69, a retired Jeffersonville fire captain, was active on the department when Osborne was growing up, When Osborne was in third grade, Popp invited him to ride on the firetruck and help collect for the Crusade. At the time, Osborne was more thrilled with the prospect of riding on the firetruck than helping others, but collecting for the Crusade became an annual routine. Now, he has made both loves part of his career as a Jeffersonville firefighter.

It wasn’t until Osborne was an emergency medical technician with Yellow Ambulance after high school that the benefit of all those years collecting hit home. A few of his runs would involve transporting young cancer patients to the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville. There he saw the Crusade logo posted in play areas and other places in the medical facility.

“That really made me realize that as a kid (what I collected), this was here that money went to,” he said. “I saw that and I thought, ‘Okay, I need to step up and be more involved.”

In 2008, Osborne followed in his godfather’s footsteps and joined the Jeffersonville Fire Department and proudly participated in its Crusade collection activities. Two years later, he was offered the chance to oversee the department’s Crusade activities, and he gladly took on the responsibility. That year, the department collected its highest amount ever, nearly $57,000.

Osborne was stunned at the total and quickly realized he had just set a lofty goal to hit every year. The department didn’t pass that total in the next seven years, but there’s always hope that it will, he said.

“It’s been tough to keep the bar at that standard,” he said. “We haven’t done it since then, but that’s our goal to beat that one day. We will. It’s just going to take time and effort.”

Osborne has added several fundraisers to help boost the department’s contributions. In 2011, he started an annual fishing tournament to benefit the Crusade. He works with Bass Pro Shop and A20 Boating Supplies and Pro Shop to run the event and for donations for raffle prizes. Competitors fish on the Ohio River from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and return to a spread cooked by J & L Catering and paid for by the Jeffersonville Fire Fighters Local 558.

About 20 to 30 boats participate, many of them repeat competitors who enjoy competitive fishing and the chance to donate to the Crusade. This year’s tournament had 23 boats and brought in one of its highest totals at $4,750, thanks to numerous sponsors and the winners donating back their first place prize – a guaranteed $1,000 pot.

Several other events will happen this weekend during the annual Crusade Weekend. Several years ago, the Heartland Payment Systems vs. JFD basketball game was added. The game is a fun culmination of all the fundraising activities that take place at the company for the Crusade throughout the year. It’s mainly a “battle for bragging rights,” and department’s success often depends on who’s on duty. It’s not unusual for some of the players to be called out on runs during the game, and sometimes bystanders get pulled in as subs, Osborne said.

On Friday, First Harrison Bank located at 2744 Allison Lane in Jeffersonville, will host a fundraising cookout from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. while the firefighters collect donations at a nearby roadblock. Kevin Burke ’78, business development officer and vice president for the bank branch, is a big help in that fundraising effort, which usually brings in between $4,000 and $5,000 between the cookout and the roadblock, Osborne said.

Osborne has learned that organizing the department’s Crusade collection efforts is more than a one-person job, and he lets others handle organizing the individual events like the charity basketball game and the cookout. He has gotten busier over the last eight years by taking up a part-time job, but the department also is busy and fire runs sometimes interfere with its plans to hold roadblocks in the last two weekends of May. That’s why he’s appreciative of help from local groups and teams like the Providence Football team, which has helped out on Crusade weekends the last few years.

File Photo

Fellow Jeffersonville firefighter Chris McCain ’86 and Coach Larry Denison ’86 are friends, and McCain has sons on the team. So McCain approached Osborne with an offer for the team’s help as a way for the team to conduct a charity event and earn the players service hours. The team has been a big help, especially with some of the city’s larger neighborhoods, Osborne said. With the team’s assistance, a 500-home subdivision can be canvassed in about an hour. He looks forward to their helping again this weekend.

“I really enjoy having the help of the Providence Football team,” Osborne said, noting that he welcomes any team or students who want to help on Saturday. “It doesn’t have to be just the football team, though. “I’ll take as much help as I can get.”

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