Jacqueline Sanford, center, with daughter Janisha, right, are given a...

Jacqueline Sanford, center, with daughter Janisha, right, are given a check by members of the Nassau County PBA at a charity hockey game in honor of volunteer firefighter Joseph Sanford Jr. who died of injuries sustained while on duty last December, at Nassau Coliseum, Saturday, Feb. 28. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Todd Gerbasio will always remember the kindness firefighters have shown when Nassau police officers are killed in the line of duty.

"They would give us their firehouses to use for fellowship. . . . Whatever we needed, they were just very generous," said Gerbasio, a 24-year veteran who patrols the Fourth Precinct. "They were always good to us."

So when longtime Inwood firefighter Joseph Sanford Jr., 43, died from injuries sustained while battling a Woodmere house fire on Dec. 19, Gerbasio wanted to do more than mourn.

With the support of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, Gerbasio, a PBA trustee, organized an ice hockey benefit.

At the Nassau Coliseum Saturday night, firefighters squared off against cops -- an event billed as "Nassau's Bravest vs. Nassau's Finest." A large portion of the proceeds will go to Sanford's widow and three children, officials said.

"He's a true hero; a man that should be remembered for a long time," PBA president James Carver said of Sanford.

"It's a beautiful thing anytime you can come together to help a family in need," said Officer Dean Losquadro, who attended the game.

Sanford, a former first deputy chief, was critically injured when part of the home's first floor collapsed. He was found in the flooded, debris-strewn basement and rushed to the hospital, where he would die a few days later. Thousands of firefighters and police officers attended the funeral.

Inwood Fire Capt. Thomas Scala took to the ice Saturday to honor Sanford, whom he called "a very dedicated member of the department."

Gerbasio, who also played, said the PBA has already donated $10,000 to the Sanford family fund and the New York Islanders planned to donate $10 for every $10 ticket sold.

Cliff Gault, a senior sales associate with the Islanders, said the benefit's nearly 300 tickets were quickly snatched up. "The game has been sold out for a month," he said.

While the police team netted a 6-1 victory, the real winner was the Sanford family. Jacqueline attended her late husband's benefit with daughter Janisha, both wearing red firefighter jerseys.

"We just want to say thank you to everybody for all of their love and support," Jacqueline said. "This has been the hardest thing that our family has ever had to endure."

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