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Clearfield • Their sacrifice is minor compared with that of the people they're trying to help, but 24 men are losing sweat, sleep and a little blood this week to aid the families of "fallen heroes."
Two teams of 12 volunteer basketball players mostly with church or rec league résumés tipped off at 9 a.m. Monday for what they expect will be a 109-hour marathon game to set a world record and raise money for the Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund. They're playing in shifts, often a couple hours on and two or three off on a cot in the Clearfield Aquatic Center's hallway. The longest scheduled break for any given player before the game wraps up on Friday night is five hours.
Spectators' donations will help fund scholarships for the families of military personnel, police officers and firefighters killed on duty.
"It's a good cause for the foundation," Marine recruiter Anthony Holdren said, explaining why he took a week of leave to play for the white team representing military members, "and I wanted to test myself. I'm a Marine. I like a challenge."
To the surprise of observers and some of the players, the teams came out playing hard, as if starting a sprint instead of a marathon. They ran fast breaks and committed hard fouls, knocking opponents to the floor on layup attempts.
The blue team, representing police officers, got out to a big lead, making game organizer and foundation director Kurt Spencer fear for the utility of the four-digit score trackers he'd made of flip cards hanging from PVC tubes.
"They've scored 89 points in an hour," Spencer said, "so I hope they don't break 10,000."
They'll have to slow down eventually, he said, though he didn't expect many to sleep much or at all "until Tuesday."
At the two-hour mark the blue team led 170-117, and everyone on the court was drenched in sweat. One player was out with a busted lip.
The game was scheduled to go continuously, day and night, with no timeouts, half time or other breaks. The action stops only for fouls and free throws. Players are allowed six fouls in any two-hour window, and foul out of the entire match if they exceed that limit.
It's free to the public because it has to be to count as a Guinness record, Spencer said. But his foundation is accepting donations, selling $1 tickets for a chance to guess the final score or final tally of three-point shots and win an activity pass to the Utah Olympic Park. A raffle on Friday night will award memorabilia autographed by former Brigham Young University basketball standout Jimmer Fredette.
The crew is attempting to best the current world record of 107 hours.
The goal with this and other fundraisers is to collect $50,000 before the foundation awards its first scholarships in April or May, Spencer said. At that point the foundation will split whatever it has among however many valid applications it receives through its website, http://www.fallenheroscholarship.org.
Ryan Braden, a 38-year-old former Roy High School player, flew to Utah from Kansas City on Christmas night for the game. He played with Spencer in their youth but hadn't had much contact with him until he noticed his old teammate posting information about the game on Facebook.
"I mentioned it to my wife half-jokingly," he said, "and she said, 'No, go for it. It's a good cause.' "
Braden played college ball at Missouri Valley College and now plays pickup games a couple of times a week, but never anything as grueling as this. He said he hoped to be on the court for 50 hours of the game.
Aimee Christy of Draper sat in the bleachers cheering and trying to update Facebook with news of her son Bruce's play in the game. A high schooler who plays football for Alta, Bruce joined a friend in opting to devote Christmas break to the cause.
The family has a long record of military service, she said, and she's proud that her son would think of others during his time off.
"It's a sacrifice," she said. "It just feels good to be a part of something that could help educate kids."
Clearfield City donated the court space, and the foundation is paying for overnight front-desk help to keep the game open to the public around the clock.
• Players hope to last 109 hours by napping in shifts.
• Donations benefit fund for families of killed soldiers, officers and firefighters.
• The game is at the Clearfield Aquatic Center, 825 S. State St., Clearfield.
• Information on the fund is available online at http://www.fallenheroscholarship.org