ALBANY -- The Albany Fire Department will kick off its Be The Match Firefighters Challenge with a fundraiser and community outreach from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 17 at Golden Gate Fields racetrack.

Be The Match raises money to help families who have a member suffering from blood cancers such as leukemia. It also asks people to sign up for a donor registry. Donors are often needed for bone marrow or stem cells to be transplanted.

"Be The Match will take care of people if they need to take a couple of days off of work," James Sanders of the Albany Fire Department said. "They will pay wages to people for X amount of days. Housing for the families, if they have to be put up in a hotel or something."

The Firefighters Challenge is a friendly competition among fire departments around the Bay Area. In addition to Albany, firefighters from Berkeley, Contra Costa County, San Francisco, San Jose, Redwood City, El Cerrito, Richmond and Oakland will participate.

Sunday is the first Dollar Day of the new season at Golden Gate Fields. The racetrack allows schools and community organizations to staff food and beverage booths to raise money for various causes.

"We're pouring the beer, we're selling the hot dogs," Sanders said. "What's even better, they're letting us put up a drive there as well. Volunteers are going to be there and we're going to be able to sign people up for the registry as well. Golden Gate Fields is letting us make a pretty good event about it."


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Albany City Treasurer Kim Denton is assisting with the drive.

"I got a call from James one day," she said. "I went across the parking lot (to the fire department). I had never seen him so excited. I'm on the committee with him. I'm giving him ideas like why don't we do the Solano Stroll? Giving him ideas on how to communicate with the businesses."

One idea Denton said is to have a firefighter's boot at various businesses around town and have people leave donations in the boots.

More events are being planned, including a department booth at the Solano Stroll on Sept. 14.

The campaign runs through the end of September. The Albany Fire Department has a goal of raising $5,000 and signing up 500 people for the donor registry. Most of the other departments have similar goals. Denton said that at an organizing meeting on Aug. 10, the San Francisco firefighters said their goal was to sign up more people for the registry than any other department.

"We have some big shoes to fill because of our population compared to Berkeley," Sanders said. "It's a friendly competition. The main point is as a group get as many people signed up."

For more information, contact the Albany Fire Department at 510-528-5770 or go to www.bethematch.org. Be The Match also has a page on Facebook.