United Way of Sevier County Presents 2nd Annual First Responders Challenge 2016, (Part 2)

Here is part 2 of  my story on the First Responders Challenge event held yesterday at Sevier County High School. What an exciting event for the whole family! The following pictures and videos will give you a look at one of the best events of the year in Sevierville.

Fun introductions by Bryan McCarter as teams enter the stadium for competition. My favorite intro was for the Sevier County Sherrif’s Department, but I couldn’t catch it in time on my camera. The fighting Hosses’?  Love all the intros.

Here are some pictures that I took quickly before the competitions began. (Message me if you see any errors.)


Hard charging Pigeon Forge Police Department was the winning team of the day. Gold!


Knoxville Police Department represented Knoxvegas well, winning a Bronze medal.


Defending champions from last year, the Alcoa Fire Department.


Pigeon Forge Fire Department


Sevierville Police and Fire, nicknamed  “Holsters and Hoses.” (One of my favorite teams to watch.)


Pittman Center Fire Department


Tug-of-War is fierce!

Police vs Fire for Pigeon Forge.

More strong competition in Tug-of-War.

The obstacle course covers most of the field and provides a lot of excitement!

Teamwork to get everyone over top. A big drop down to the other side.

Approaching the obstacle course.

The guy in the back crossed that high wall well. I was rooting for him!

Sevierville Police and Fire show how to cross the wall.

A lot of speed in the video below. Did someone run track in high school?

John Hutchens’ former track students?


Kyle Grainger from WVLT Channel 8


Michael Maddron, coach, pictured left. Bryan McCarter, announcer, center. SCHS track and event coach,  John Hutchens.


The maze trail is contained within a large truck. The contestants do not know anything about the inside design and it is completely dark. And small spaces! I could see how they bump their helmets on walls and things. I believe the event is timed. To me, this would be the hardest thing of all the events!

Look at the small opening in the bottom right. Very small. Full gear and oxygen tanks add more weight too.


Officer Akers works out at my gym. I asked why he wasn’t competing, but he said that he was scheduled to work. If he competes next year then look out because he works out hard at NFC.


Part of the Shults family outside the Sevier County High School stadium. I think that the sign above applies well to them. My friend Darlene is pictured in the cranberry color. Event Chairman, John Matthews, is pictured to the far right.


Have you ever seen anyone pulling a fire truck loaded with 1,000 gallons of water?

Timed event. Must pull to cones. Coach Hutchens calling the times!

sam_1005A tough team here too!

I had to leave soon after the fire truck pull due to an appointment, but will make sure that I can stay until the end next year. This looked very interesting. A huge container of water with a ladder across the top.

In conclusion, the theme of the day was ‘overcoming obstacles.‘ Justin Shults wrote about overcoming obstacles in his life as an essay topic when he applied for a scholarship. First responders overcome obstacles every day. The United Way of Sevier County helps to fund over 15 community groups to help others overcome obstacles. It was a common thread throughout the day.

I ended my visit on an uplifting note. It was a good moment to see the Shults family honoring Justin and Stephanie Shults.


It is obvious that our community loves this family.


Our community also loves Justin and Stephanie.

In honor of them.

Smoky Mountain First Responders Challenge 2016: Champions All. (Part 1)


I may have found the best event of the year. It is free, family friendly, involves athleticism, bravery, and obstacles. Welcome to the Smoky Mountain First Responders Challenge 2016, presented by the United Way of Sevier County.

The morning was fun, inspiring, and motivating to all ages. The Mountain Press covered the event well in today’s Sunday edition so I will it to them to tell the major details. Event pictures and video are abundant on the Facebook page for Smoky Mountain First Responders Challenge so make sure you go over there to see the competition. Here, I will act as a digital storyteller and share what I observed in my time at this event. This story is expansive so I must cover it in two parts.  Here is what I saw at the beginning of the day…

First responders on location.


Helpers for the day.


Event coaches. Michael Maddron is ready.


I entered just as the event began. Plenty of parking and seats so bring the whole family next year.


The Smoky Mountain First Responders Challenge 2016 began with a tribute to two young people who were lost in the March 22 bombing in the Brussels airport. As we know, Justin Shults was from Gatlinburg. You can see the picture of Justin and Stephanie Shults in the photo above. Some of the proceeds at this event will fund a scholarship in their names for a student at Gatlinburg -Pittman High School. Applicants must write an essay on the topic of obstacles that they have overcome, like Justin Shults wrote about when he attended high school.


At the exact moment that the tribute to Justin and Stephanie Shults ended, I noticed two groups of Canadian geese flying overhead in a ‘V’ formation. The geese were loudly making noise,  as if saluting as they flew.  I don’t know if anyone else noticed this moment, but it seemed like a supernatural tribute from the sky, punctuating the one going on below on the football field. Time seemed to stand still for a moment.


Singing of the National Anthem.


United Way of Sevier County Executive Director, Amy Harper, pictured on the right. Rhonda Bletner, from the Moutain Press, pictured center. Her article in today’s Sunday edition was very comprehensive. Buy one before they are gone!


Bryan McCarter was the announcer for the day. I have heard him announce many ballgames at Carson Newman University, but the humor really came out for this event. From the team introductions to the timed events, his comments had us chuckling all day. A really talented sports announcer!


Coaches for competitions. Michael Maddron, pictured right, is ready for the games to begin.


Teams lining up and listening to how the day will go. I know that adrenaline was pumping!


Ready for Tug-o-War.

Obstacle course wall and tunnel. That wall was high!


Touring the course. Reviewing the rules.



Michael Maddron coaching teams for the obstacle course. (I wanted to sneak over to the stadium today to try to climb the big wall, but I think that they put it away. Maybe next year…)


And then the games were ready to begin at the Hardin-Robertson Field at Sevier County High School. A wonderful school and a great place to hold this event. (Go Bears!)

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this story. I should publish it later this evening. It will contain more pictures, stories, and a few videos of the event. It is just too big to cover in one story.

See more pictures on this blog’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1254469567899261/

The Smoky Mountain First Responders Challenge by the United Way of Sevier County was a super charged way to get out and about in Sevierville. 

Be there next year!