An event held Saturday at Flanigan Park gave the city’s youth and public safety departments, such as police and fire, an opportunity to meet on a level playing field – make that basketball court.
The two groups played two games of basketball Saturday in order to “bridge the gap,” explained Sean Walker, youth outreach and recreation director for First United Methodist Church.
About a year ago, the idea came to Walker to have the public safety departments and teens
interact and have a good time. He explained that the event helps the two groups learn about each other since they may not know a lot about the other.
Walker said the goal is “to better understand each other but work together.”
“We’re trying to break down walls,” he said. “It’s allowing them play basketball but also build that relationship up.”
He said growing up in Williamsport himself, he always enjoyed the interaction with public safety and wants the next generation to have the same positive relationship.
When he first told others around the community, they were “ecstatic.”
“I think a lot of people wanted to do something like this or say it was a need but didn’t have the resources,” Walker said.
Saturday was the second such game Walker has held. The first was in January. The way the two groups interacted showed him that it was a positive experience for everyone involved.
“It went off beautifully. They talked to each other, they cracked jokes with each other,” he said.
Walker said most of the youth who participate in the games are a part of the church’s open-gym events. But all are welcome.
Everyone benefits from getting the community together, he said.
“I think with this, breaking these walls down and building relationships (is positive),” he said. “Now we don’t have to hear these things about how people don’t want to talk to cops.”
Walker hopes to hold an event for the two groups to continue to interact every six months. But he added that it doesn’t always need to be basketball, as long as they’re having a good time and interacting.
“We’re going to do a vast array of things to build this relationship,” he said. “Every six months we’ll look at doing something.”