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By Terri Wells
They came, they bounced, they had a blast. This year's Lights and Ladders event attracted 8,000 people to Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Clermont. The free community event offered area youth the opportunity to play dodge ball on teams with a local police officer or firefighter, and gave everyone the chance to indulge in a variety of playful activities.

"We had to hold two tournaments, we had such a good turn-out," revealed Drew Evans, the Clermont police officer who organized the event. A total of 20 teams participated, each made up of local children between the ages of 10 and 15 and one police officer or firefighter.

"In the second tournament, Chief Broadway was on one of the winning teams," Evans added, naming his own chief of police.

Evans seemed impressed with some of the other activities on offer at Lights and Ladders as well. In addition to horseback riding and rock wall climbing, large bounce houses entertained youngsters who wanted something different from the trampolines. "Some were shaped like obstacle courses, and very long and wide," Evans observed.

Local food vendors did their part to make sure no one went hungry. According to Evans, nearly a dozen vendors representing local area restaurants showed up and distributed thousands of samples to the attendees.

Donation boxes were set out to collect for the Wounded Officers Initiative. This not-for-profit organization's mission, according to its website, "is to provide essential services to help address the long term needs of wounded law enforcement officers whose line of duty injuries have prevented them from continuing their law enforcement careers."

While noting that he did not yet have an exact figure, Evans stated that the event raised "several thousand dollars" for the charity.

"Lights and Ladders is really a way to collaborate with the youth and the community, and for police and firefighters to give back to the community, and make a positive impact on young lives," declared Evans.

Last year's Lights and Ladders earned Evans a nomination by his department for the "Service Above Self" award from the Leesburg Rotary Club.

The Lights and Ladders event, which was free to the community, was sponsored by a number of local area businesses. Optima One Realty was a premier sponsor for the event.

Lights and Ladders draws thousands of kids
to play dodgeball with police and firefighters
lights and ladders
Over 8,000 people participated in this year's Lights and Ladders event with the Clermont Police and Fire Departments. The crowd topped last year's total of 7,000 for the family oriented event. (Photo by Eric Lane)
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