(WBRE/WYOU) — It was a friendly showdown between local police and a local non-profit.
A game of basketball is being used to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and youth in the area. This game between the Bellevue Youth and Scranton Police Department at United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania showed that even though they were competitors on the court, in the community, they are all on the same team.
“They thought they could beat me. No. I had all of them,” Bellevue Youth Moet Wellington said.
That was how Wellington felt after playing against the Scranton Police Department in a basketball game for the first time. He brought that same energy to this game at Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“You can really interact with cops and talk to them one-on-one. Instead of a bad problem, this is something fun,” Wellington said.
This is the third time the non-profit brought in law enforcement for a face-off. Before he played the game, Wellington says he didn’t know what to expect, but the game changed his perception.
“We’re all on this planet together and we are all human beings and we should all respect each other,” Scranton Police Department Chief Carl Graziano said.
Bellevue Youth coach Travis Lily spent his teenage days at United Neighborhood Centers. It was his dream to be a part of a team. That time didn’t come in high school, but when he got the opportunity to face off against the police as the team’s coach, he jumped on it.
“It’s unity. It’s commitment. It’s leadership. It’s everything with that. It builds the kids to understand that ‘I have the skills, what it takes to be in the real world’,” Lily said.
All recognize that hitting the court for this game allows both sides the chance to see each other in a different light.
“They have that common bond. That ‘oh, hey I played against you at the Bellevue Centers.’ So it is something good. I think it benefits both parties,” leaders and training coordinator Nathan Masco said.
It was a close game, but Bellevue Youth beat Scranton Police Department 61-58. The United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania is a completely free program that aims to help people in need.