KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan University’s campus is busy with activity. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be broadcasting from Kalamazoo Saturday when the Broncos take on the Buffalo Bulls.
24 Hour News 8 learned some honorary guest will be at the game. WMU alum Del Eldridge and his friends — Greg Watts, Matt Vernon and TG Nully — bought tickets for all of the Kalamazoo-area first responders.
“It’s been a rough year for police officers and I’m like let’s do something special,” said Del Eldridge, a WMU alumni.
The four stacks of tickets were hand delivered Thursday afternoon to Kalamazoo Public Safety officers, Kalamazoo Sheriff’s Department, WMU campus police and Portage police; enough tickets to give two to every member of the departments. The total cost is more than $14,000.
“For what the officers do, that’s not really the important thing,” said Eldridge. “They protect and serve and they deserve more appreciation then they get on a daily basis.”
There has been a national spotlight on police officer misconduct, fueling more negative perceptions of officers. In Kalamazoo, local first responders had to deal with the June 7 cycling tragedy when nine bicyclist were hit by a driver, and a shooting rampage that killed six.
“This shook us all and as law enforcement you take these scenes and you process them but again we’re human,” said KDPS Cpt. Vernon Coakley.
Coakley will be one of the first responders walking out onto the field to be recognized during the game.
“We’re just excited to be a part of this whole event,” he said.
It’s a special honor for Coakley, because he’s a WMU alum and he played football for the Broncos from 1985 to 1989 when the team when to the California Bowl.
“For us to come together in this manner is an awesome feeling. As first responders this means a lot to us,” said Coakley. “Every day we get out to save lives to help people.
“We see them in their greatest time, and sometime in their worse times, to just have an opportunity to some donors to say thank you, for what you do every day is something that the officers’ moral need.”