Sunday, July 21, 2024

Basketball Brings Down Boundaries

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A player practices before a gamePhoto Brent Smyth

Fidelis Bewudia always relishes a chance to lace up his high-tops and compete, and the Hoop Dreams basketball tournament was no exception as he had a chance to play and meet fellow competitors and connect with police officers.

A person holds a basketball
Fidelis Bewudia enjoyed connecting with police and fellow competitors during the tournamentPhoto: Brent Smyth

Held over six weeks, the ProAction Cops & Kids-funded initiative for youth from the city’s west end concluded on May 28 at the Toronto Police College.

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“It has been great and I know that some of the skills I gained here can be used outside basketball,” said the Grade 12 West Humber Collegiate Institute student. “This specific event is also amazing because it brings together kids from various neighbourhoods. I have also never been in a building like this, so this has been a good experience.”

Detective-Constable Julia Roizman, of the Integrated Gang Prevention Task Force, said the event was designed to bring young people together. The unit seeks to use educate, prevent, intervene and suppress gang violence in partnership with community agencies.

“We have noticed during our work in the community that gang violence is territorial,” said Roizman, of the unit dedicated to breaking the cycle of gang violence. “We wanted to do something focused on bringing youth together from these neighbourhoods to spend some time and get to know each other a little bit more. It’s just about showing them they are not that different from one another.”

People play basketball
Players had a chance to compete at Toronto Police CollegePhoto: Brent Smyth

The program included young people from the Driftwood, Grandravine, Falstaff, Jamestown and North Kipling neighbourhoods.

Games were played at various community centres across the city, including the Falstaff Community Centre, North Kipling Community Centre, the Salvation Army Temple on Kipling Avenue and Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School.

“This was done on purpose,” added Roizman. “The kids showed up and had fun throughout this endeavor. They have been amazing.”

Detective-Constable Marlon Laptiste, who joined the Service 15 years ago, grew up in the Jane & Finch community.

“Doing programs like this means a lot to me and we want young people to know that there are police officers that believe in them and care for them,” he said. “We have seen youth from the various neighbourhhoods interacting on the bus to the tournament and at the venue. That is what this is all about. We are trying to eliminate some of these arbitrary divisions and let them be just youths. We also wanted to show them another side of policing. The Service does a lot of great work with the community and this just adds to that.”

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