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N.H. firefighter keeps charity baseball streak alive

Salem Firefighter Colton Houle has been playing in the Special Olympics Heroes Cup for over a decade

By Angelina Berube
The Eagle-Tribune

SALEM, N.H. — Salem firefighter Colton Houle has kept a streak alive for more than a decade which he doesn’t see stopping any time soon.

The 10-year veteran of Salem Fire Department will swap his firefighting helmet for a baseball one as he gears up to raise funds and play shortstop in this year’s Special Olympics Heroes Cup.

Houle is the longest-playing firefighter in these charity games. This will be his 12th appearance in a New Hampshire charity baseball game since his first in 2013.

Houle will represent “Team Bravest” along with other firefighters in a friendly competition against police officers on “Team Finest” in the annual game between New Hampshire first responders. Money raised benefiting Special Olympics of New Hampshire initiatives.

The game is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. Aug. 3, at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, 1 Line Drive, Manchester. Firefighters and police officers from across New Hampshire will

The Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth ran the New Hampshire baseball game for several years before the Special Olympics took over in 2023.

No matter the cause, Houle said it’s a privilege to be a part of the games and to have done it for so long. It’s a commitment with practices, scrimmages and community events woven in. But it’s something he’s enjoyed with a community-centered mindset.

He was recognized by the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem in 2022 as Firefighter of the Year for giving back to the community and a decade’s worth of fundraising for the children’s hospital in the games.

“It gives me one more time to put the cleats on and do so by giving back since baseball has always been in my life,” Houle said.

Houle played in high school and college. He has coached at Alvirne High School in Hudson, where he graduated, for over a decade and finished his first season as the school’s varsity coach.

The fire service runs in his blood. His father, Lt. Richard Houle, served Derry Fire for 37 years. Houle said he was basically raised in the firehouse and his dad is a big reason he entered the field.

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It was also no surprise that the place he hung around for most of his life played a role in his involvement with the charity games, he said. After college, Houle wanted to keep playing. Members of the Derry Fire Department who played in the CHAD baseball game encouraged Houle to do the same with his passion and history in the sport.

He represented Derry Fire in his first two charity games.

“They knew I was getting into the fire service and they kept hounding me to come play,” Houle said. “One thing led to another and I haven’t stopped playing baseball.”

“And it was for a good cause, first with the hospital and now with the Special Olympics,” Houle added. “It definitely means a lot to the kids and adults involved.”

Houle’s cousin, Kaitlyn Hilbrunner, is a Special Olympics athlete and the firefighter said he knows firsthand how much these games mean to the athletes they benefit. The game has taken on special meaning for Houle and he’ll be representing her on the field.

“You know you’re a part of something that will go a long way for these organizations,” he added.

Houle has raised at least $1,000 each year through fundraising to play in the games with donations from friends and families. Salem Firefighters Relief Association has supported him each year, matching the minimum needed.

While Special Olympics, and the hospital before, is the real winner of the game, Houle hopes his fire team will be able to earn some much-needed bragging rights with a victory.

In his 11 previous games, fire has only won twice despite some close games, he said. Team Fire has not won since 2015.

“We’ve lost to the cops for many years as they always manage to sneak out an extra run,” Houle said with a laugh. “We keep losing so I have to keep playing.”

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