Teenagers from seven different communities within Thornton Township teamed together with police officers in the first annual Taste of Thornton Township Basketball Tournament as a show of community unity. The tournament featured teenagers and police officers playing on the same team for the pride of their town or village and focusing on working with each other. Typically, communities have police officers and kids playing against each other in a basketball tournament; however, Thornton Township officials, decided the alternative made more sense.
“The way you make a community stronger is working together, loving each other, and knowing each other,” said Frank M. Zuccarelli, Thornton Township supervisor. “We shouldn’t have kids and police officers on opposite teams. We should have them side by side helping lift each other up. This is something we are going to do every year, and it is going to be bigger and better.”
A three-time Township Supervisor of the Year award winner, the program is an extension of the Faith, Dignity and Respect Initiative bringing together elected officials, law enforcement and community leaders to develop proactive ways to stem the shocking amount of gun violence and community unrest that swept the nation in places like Ferguson, Baltimore, New York and Chicago.
The five-on-five basketball tournament, which was held at South Suburban College, is an example of many Thornton Township’s programs that focus on police officers and teenagers learning more about each other. The village of Lansing police department and teens won the tournament.
“You could immediately see that the basketball tournament really brought the officers and teenagers together. They huddled with each other, and encouraged and supported one another throughout the day,” said Ernst Lamothe Jr., Thornton Township communication manager, who organized the event. “We saw police officers putting their arms around teenagers and just sitting down and having good conversations, laughing together and having a great time.”
In the wake of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a nation being divided, Thornton Township and local officials wanted a unifying event.
“It was a great event to see all of us just having fun and bonding,” said Officer Mack Sanders, Markham police chief, who took part in the program. “This is something that we definitely want to continue to be part of next year.”
Maureen Grady-Pervoich, village of Lansing board member, attended the entire tournament and believed it was something that needs to happen among various communities.
“I am so proud that I live win Thornton Township in a place that would put on an event like this,” said Pervoich. “I don’t know many government organizations who are doing this kind of large scale events and community outreach.”