AL HAMNIK: These ring tones sweet music to 'Slugfest' promoters

2014-04-01T18:15:00Z 2014-04-05T21:42:42Z AL HAMNIK: These ring tones sweet music to 'Slugfest' promotersAl Hamnik Times Columnist
April 01, 2014 6:15 pm  • 

Would you step into the ring, in front of a large crowd, and trade punches with basically no fight experience?

Be honest. Of course not.

But sometimes, compassion and devotion to a worthy cause trump the fear factor.

It moved Jasper County Court security officer Jen Rusk and Lowell Prompt Ambulance medic Melissa Hofmann to sign up for Saturday's 9-1-1 Slugfest at the Hammond Civic Center, with proceeds going to Make-A-Wish Foundation.

They are the only women on the card.

All bouts feature three one-minute rounds involving amateurs, most with little or no boxing experience.

"I absolutely jumped at the opportunity," said Rusk, a 1998 Kankakee Valley grad. "You're nervous but these (Make-A Wish) kids are so brave each and every day. I can be brave for three minutes."

Former pro fighter Jack Callahan and wife Karen are promoting the event, which pits local police against firemen in the ring.

"It's a little intimidation, but it's for fun," Hofmann said. "Jack told me a newspaper would be calling me and I said, 'For what? An obit?'

"But like I told Jack, I can't turn back now."

Rusk is also a personal trainer who works out at the DeMotte Boxing Club. She's been in a few "sparring" fundraisers and has run road races for worthy causes.

Her court job demands she be physical if needed.

"The potential is there every day to put your hands on somebody," Rusk said, adding, "I love fundraiser stuff. I love helping charities."

Saturday's event, with sponsors still lining up and a crowd of 3,000 expected, is geared toward family entertainment and that should make all participants breathe a sigh of relief.

Hofmann's husband, Random, doesn't plan to attend, however.

"He didn't want me to get hurt. I thought he'd be the first one who'd want to see me get hit," she said, jokingly. "He thinks: 'Oh, you're a girl. You shouldn't do that.'

"Typical guy."

Hofmann has trained occasionally the last three weeks and figures Rusk has the advantage.

"I've met Jen. We're not going to kill each other out there," said Hofmann, a 1997 Thornwood alumn. "We're both doing it for the cause. She understands I don't have near the experience she does."

Doors open at 6 p.m. Saturday. The first bout is at 7.

Make-A-Wish grants the wish of a child — between the ages of 2 1/2 and 18 — diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition in the United States and its territories, on average, every 38 minutes.

There are 62 chapters in the United States and in 47 other countries through 36 affiliate offices.

Three area families with a Make-A-Wish child are scheduled to attend Slugfest.

Melissa Hofmann has two sons, ages 10 and 12. The oldest, Timothy, survived a life-threatening experience at birth, so she can identify with children in need.

"I'd do anything to help a child's dream come true," she said. "Even if it means getting bounced around in the ring."

Tickets are still available for Saturday. You don't have to step into the ring to help these kids.

Take a seat and deliver a real punch.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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