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First responders from across the country have eyes on Butler County

Can-Am Police-Fire Games
Azalea Carlaw, of Canada, will represent the Woolwich Fire Department at the 2024 Butler Can-Am Police-Fire Games, which will take place on from July 15 to 21 throughout Butler County. Submitted Photo

Firefighter and world-class athlete Azalea Carlaw will make the trek from Ontario, Canada, to Butler County to participate in her third Can-Am Police-Fire Games this July. The powerlifter and competitive swimmer representing the Woolwich Fire Department is coming to southwestern Pennsylvania with the hope of taking two things back with her.

Gold medals and friendship.

“I think the Can-Am games encompasses the message of being fit for duty for any of us first responders,” Carlaw said. “It’s a great opportunity to meet other first responders from Canada and the United States. The best part is going to be able to come together with first responders who have similar goals, values and morals.”

Starting on July 15, Butler County will host the 2024 Can-Am Police-Fire Games, an Olympic-style, weeklong event for first responders, their spouses and children over age 18. Participants will have a chance to compete in 33 sporting events at 16 venues across Butler County.

Azalea Carlaw, of Canada, will compete in the dead lift competition at the 2024 Butler Can-Am Police-Fire Games. Submitted Photo

Butler County Sheriff Mike Slupe is serving as chairman and CEO for the games. He said there are more than 500 athletes signed up for the games, and most of the athletes will participate in multiple events.

Carlaw will be one of those mutli-sport athletes. She will take part in swimming and powerlifting events.

“I’ve always been naturally gifted in swimming,” Carlaw said.

As for powerlifting, Carlaw, who actively trains in CrossFit, said she’s confident in her ability to perform during the games.

“I know my dead lift is pretty competitive,” she said. “Last year, I registered for the push-pull event, which is a combination of bench press and dead lift for a combined weight, and I received a gold medal in my age group.”

“Looking back at my previous results, I thought that was a competitive weight, so that’s why I decided that I would go for it this year,” said the Canadian athlete.

She will also be participating in the 100-meter freestyle and breaststroke.

The games will include unique events such as pistol shooting and Texas Hold ‘em.

There also will be events related to the professional field, such as the Narcotic Dogs game, which will see K-9 teams compete in vehicle, luggage and open area searches.

“We’ve got a lot of great things going on,” Slupe said.

One of the more anticipated events for the upcoming Can-Am games will be the round-robin ice hockey tournament, which will take place at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township.

“We’re going to look to fill the stands,” Slupe said. “This will be so much fun, and it’s going to be great to play in front of a great crowd.”

Adams Township volunteer firefighter Taylor Goodlin said he is proud and thankful to be able to represent Butler County in his first Can-Am games. He will take part in the round-robin hockey tournament.

“It should be a lot of fun,” he said. “I grew up playing hockey all around the Pittsburgh area and traveled to many places to play. It’s been a huge part of my life, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.”

Like Carlaw, Goodlin said he’s looking to be competitive but knows at the end of the day it’s about bonding with other first responders.

“I’m going into this with the mindset as if I’m going to a fire training conference,” Goodlin said. “’My goal is to ultimately just have fun and, at the end of the day, meet new people and share that love of service that we all share.”

Along with meeting new people and playing the sport he loves with his fellow firefighters, Goodlin said the games also will help show off his community.

“To have this Olympic-style event of this caliber here in our backyard is just pretty awesome,” he said. “I think it’ll probably bring a lot of attention to the area and show why so many of us like to call Butler County home.”

The games are not just open to current first responders and their families. Retired state police officer Robert Lizik is one of the game coordinators for Can-Am, and he will be participating in the bench press event that will take place at Slippery Rock University.

He is 73 years old.

“The Can-Am games gave me the opportunity to add a little motivation to my workouts,” Lizik said.

He spent nearly 40 years with the state police and has been body building for most of his life. Although it’s been a while since he last competed, he said he is going to be ready to go this summer.

“I hope to hit somewhere near the high 200s somewhere,” he said.

Lizik said he thinks the Can-Am games will provide an almost therapeutic atmosphere for the participants.

“When it comes to first responders, there is a high degree of threat both mentally and physically,” Lizik said. “And I know I find myself that some type of physical activity, whether it’s lifting weights or playing ball, helps relieve some of that stress.”

The Can-Am Games are run by a volunteer local executive board and organizing committee.

A local charity is selected by the host committee of each Can-Am Games to receive the net proceeds from the event, and this year the committee selected Special Olympics Pennsylvania.

The 2024 Can-Am Games — a biennial event promoting physical fitness and camaraderie among emergency and protective services personnel, their agencies and families — will take place July 15 to 21 at 18 venues throughout the county.

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