Hockey for a Good Cause
Updated: Feb 8, 2019
By Jennifer Ersalesi
It is not often that someone can combine their career choice and favorite hobby and raise money for meaningful charities all at the same time. However, Rutherford’s very own Local 300 Officer, Travis Ritter, has found a way to work as a Patrol officer in Rutherford and play hockey for the NJ State PBA Hockey Team, Jersey’s Strongest. This is Rutherford spoke with Travis about being part of both teams, the Rutherford Police Department and Jersey’s Strongest.
TIR: Jersey’s Strongest is NJ State’s Benevolent Association Hockey Team. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization made up of NJSPBA law enforcement officers.
How did you become interested in joining the team?
TR: One of my friends in Paramus is on the team. He knew I played hockey (I have been playing since I was seven years old) and he put in a good word for me. I went and skated with his teammates and they asked me to join the team. I have been playing with them for about 5 or 6 months. There are officers from all over NJ on the team.
TIR: This particular opportunity to play hockey for such a great team must be exciting, since you've been playing for so long. You started playing as a young child and continued to play on the Fair Lawn High School and Montclair State University hockey teams. What is the best part about being on the Jersey's Strongest team?
TR: I enjoy playing hockey with a group of guys who are from all over the state and who range in age. It is nice to be able to play hockey after work or on days when I am off. I am glad that we get to play to support a number of different charities.
TIR: Being part of Jersey’s Strongest not only gives you the opportunity to play a sport that you love, but the team also supports a number of charities. What types of charities has the team raised money for over the past few years?
TR: Well I have only been on the team for a short time, but we have played with the FDNY to raise money for the families and students involved in the Paramus bus accident. We played against a team from the Coast Guard to raise money for an anti-bullying organization and with the State Police Troopers for Mallory’s Army, an organization that raises money to support bullying education. We raise money through ticket sales, raffles, selling merchandise, chuck pucks, food sales and personal donations.
TIR: Mallory’s Army is a non-profit organization that was created by the family of Mallory Rose Grossman who tragically committed suicide after being bullied. Tell us more about Mallory’s Army. Why do you believe this cause is so important?
TR: These days we see more and more bullying. Social media definitely plays a role in making bullying more prevalent. There is less face- to-face communication and it is easier for kids to verbally attack each other on social media. Mallory was only 12 years old and it is unthinkable that a child that age could even think of taking his/her own life. It seems that there is more and more bullying amongst middle school students. Kids are more mature at an earlier age these days, which is scary. It is important to support anti-bullying programs and campaigns. When we played the game for Mallory’s Army, Mallory’s family was there and they went out on the ice and dropped the puck.
TIR: Since the officers on the team are all from different parts of NJ, how do you all determine which charities to support?
TR: The man who is in charge of Jersey’s Strongest is from Monmouth County, so sometimes he finds charities from that area. Other officers on the team often learn about a need in their communities and we raise money for those causes. This was what happened after the Paramus Bus Incident. We knew we needed to raise money for those families right away and so our next game was a fundraiser for them. If there is a tragedy, we make sure we find a way to arrange something quickly.
TIR: Rutherford is fortunate enough to have amazing Police officers working hard for our community. What do you enjoy most about being a member of the Rutherford Police Department?
TR: I have lived in Rutherford for about ten years. I grew up in Fair Lawn. I really like living here. For the past year and a half, I have been a Patrol officer. One of my favorite parts of the job is visiting the schools. It is a lot of fun and I really enjoy meeting the students and the staff. The younger students really like when I come into their classrooms and they usually have a lot of questions for me. The older students like when I pop my head in their classrooms, because they assume I can break up their day and maybe get them out of working for a little while (laughs). It is good that I can now recognize some of the students and teachers when I see them outside of school. I think that is important for them to recognize me and for me to recognize them. As police officers, we want to build a chemistry with the kids in town so that hopefully that connection will prevent them from doing the things we don’t want them to do (smiles).