ST. LOUIS – Fox 2/News 11 have a look at a St. Louis Thanksgiving Eve tradition like you’ve never seen.
The 31st Guns ‘N Hoses event is Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.
This year, we’ve gone in-depth with a police officer who's putting his face on the line for the cause.
When you’re 5-years-old like Lilly Sterr, there’s no thought of your daddy maybe going to work one day, never coming back, and not being there anymore to hold your hand on the way to school.
Her daddy, St. Louis County Police Officer, Eric Sterr, certainly does. He talked about that after walking Lilly to kindergarten recently.
“Working every day and not making it home to your family. That crosses my mind,” he said.
So, for the past several months Sterr has been turning himself into a heavyweight boxer, adding to his already loaded work schedule.
“Just the workload itself is a lot,” his wife, Ashley said. “Now you’re going to add on in going to the gym regularly and training. I’m like ‘are we ever going to see you?’”
Sterr patrols Jennings in North St. Louis County, responding to everything from burglaries to shootings. When he’s not working he works part-time security at a library in North County. The things he sees on the job and on the news are a big part of why he’s fighting.
“Just driving you have to look around: look at the cars next to you, look at the car in front of you,” he said. “Look at the people walking next to you. You always have to be on alert. You never know…you have to be ready. You can’t play any call cheap.”
Sterr was only an acquaintance of slain St. Louis County Police Officer, Blake Snyder.
They once both worked in Affton on different shifts. Still, they were at similar places in their lives when Snyder was killed in the line of duty in October of 2016.
“I was at his funeral. It’s just heartbreaking,” Sterr said.
Snyder’s widow, Elizabeth, is one of Guns ‘N Hoses biggest promoters.
She and her son are direct beneficiaries.
The police versus firefighters boxing matches raised a record $653,000 last year for the BackStoppers: the charity that covers expenses like mortgages, college tuition, and counseling for the families of the fallen.
The event has raised more than $6 million for the cause in its 30 year history.
It is a life rope.
Elizabeth Snyder wants people like Sterr to know the payoff for putting their family time and their faces on the line.
“Aww – he might break a nose,” she winced. “They put up a lot for this fight…it’s getting better in that I’m not crying every other second, if that makes sense. I’m learning to pick up the pieces of my life and start to move forward with things.”
Sterr also has Lilly’s little sister, Charlotte, and of course his wife, counting on him.
Taking a punch seems like the least he can do. His wife supports him, though she won’t the fight.
“I’m not worried about his pretty face. He’s a tough guy. He can hang with the best. So, he’ll be fine,” she smiled.
“I’m not rich. I can’t contribute a bunch of money but I have a body,” Eric Sterr said. “I have no problem getting punched in the face so I’ll go out there and do my part…this is not for me so my family’s taken care of. It’s for anyone. It’s for Elizabeth. It’s for anyone who loses their husband or wife, anyone in the line of duty, their son … anything.”
He has to work the day after his fight: Thanksgiving.