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South Hills Country Club honors county's police officers

| Thursday, July 3, 2014, 11:39 a.m.
Baldwin Township police officer Gary Krek takes a putt during the annual police appreciation day at South Hills Country Club.
Pleasant Hills police officer Jim Falconio checks his clubs during the annual police appreciation day at South Hills Country Club.
Whitehall police Chief Don Dolfi chuckles with fellow officers John Boyle (left) and Mike Farrell during the annual police appreciation day at South Hills Country Club.
Whitehall police officer Rich Danko prepares his golf cart during the annual police appreciation day at South Hills Country Club.
Whitehall police officer Terry Bradford prepares his golf cart during the annual police appreciation day at South Hills Country Club.
Baldwin Borough police officer Kim Reising chuckles with police officer James Kuzak, who was paralyzed in the line of duty, during the annual police appreciation day at South Hills Country Club.
Area police officers practice putting during the annual police appreciation day at South Hills Country Club.

One-by-one, they extended their hands and said “hello” to a friend, then chatted about the day, life and the job.

“I don't get to see these guys all the time. I appreciate them,” said Jim Kuzak Jr., as police officers from across the region stopped by to catch-up.

More than 140 police officers from 20 departments across the Allegheny County gathered at the South Hills Country Club on Monday for a day of unlimited food, beverages and a free round of golf. The country club's sixth annual Police Appreciation Day served as a “fun-raiser” to show thanks to those in law enforcement for putting their lives on the line every day, organizers said.

“They deal with a lot of bad people, and even if it's just one day a year, to show them that there are people who really support them, that's why we do this,” appreciation day coordinator Tim Veith said.

The event began after the tragic events of April 4, 2009, when Pittsburgh police officers Paul Sciullo II, Stephen Mayhle and Eric Kelly were fatally shot in the line of duty, Veith said. Club members sought a way to show appreciation for police officers across the region while they are still living — and so it began. Each year, the event has honored the life of an officer killed or injured in the line of duty. In 2010, it was held in recognition of fallen Penn Hills police Officer Michael Crawshaw and state Trooper Paul G. Richey.

The next year, it was in honor of Kuzak, 42, of Rostraver, who was shot numerous times on April 4, 2011, while responding to a home invasion call as a Clairton police officer. He was paralyzed from the waist down and remains in physical therapy.

This year's event recognized K9 officer Rocco, who died in the line of duty while protecting his partner earlier this year.

Family members of some of those who lost their lives return to the golf course each year for a day with their “one big family of law enforcement,” as Max Sciullo, Paul Sciullo's father, referred to the officers.

“It's an honor for me to be here,” Sciullo said.

Max Sciullo spent the day golfing with his two grandsons and godson. On the golf course, though, he isn't as good as his son Paul always was, Sciullo noted.

“He was an intellectual young man,” Sciullo said. “He loved to golf.”

Paul Sciullo was always happy, his dad said, but he wanted to make a difference in the world, that's why he became a police officer.

“Hopefully he did,” Max Sciullo said.

For Kuzak, who grew up on the South Hills Country Club course, where his father works as the superintendent, Police Appreciation Day is something to look forward to each year.

Kuzak, even, worked at the Whitehall golf course for five years in the late 1980s to early 1990s.

“Just to be here every year over the last five years on the course where I grew up, it makes everything good,” Kuzak said. “You can't have a bad day when people show this much appreciation for what you do.”

More than 70 volunteers, up from 20 that consisted mostly of Veith family members the first year, help to make the event possible, said Trish Veith Ivy, volunteer coordinator. The volunteers are all club members who donate their time to assist the officers throughout the day.

“The importance of today's event is community,” Whitehall police Chief Donald Dolfi said. “This is about an organization, the South Hills Country Club, made up of members from various walks of life that have embraced the police officers. They have this drive to continue it, to show their thanks for what we do.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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