'Unity in the Community' aims to bring law enforcement and youth together in Grand Rapids

Event scheduled for Wednesday at MLK Park
Posted at 6:30 PM, Jul 13, 2020
Unity in the Community aims to bring law enforcement and youth together

Michael 'Pops' Sims and Dennis Bell have both enjoyed great careers in the game of basketball and now they want to give back.

"I knew that we had to set an example," Bell, a former NBA player and co-founder of 'Unity in the Community,' said. "We can't keep talking about something, it's about doing it."

That's why they are hosting 'Unity in the Community' Wednesday at Martin Luther King Park in Grand Rapids bringing police officers and firefighters together with high school kids around the game of basketball.

"We wanted to give the officers an opportunity to come into their community and build something with the kids," Sims, a former standout at Grand Rapids Union and Marquette and co-founder of 'Unity in the Community', said.

The event is being limited to 50 high school kids because they need to keep the gathering under 100 to comply with COVID-19 regulations for the state of Michigan.

Many different schools will be represented and the kids will get a chance to hear directly from the officers.

"We want the police to know the community who they are policing," Bell said. "But also we want the community to know the police so when you bring those two together you should have a great relationship."

"Particularly in this time that we are in currently with the divisiveness," John Wittkowski, Sergeant with the Grand Rapids Police Department, said. "We really want people to know that we are human beings behind the badge, that we are approachable and we want to engage the community in something that is not only beneficial from a sports standpoint but allows us to break down some of those barriers."

There will also be plenty of basketball.

Drills and skills will be taught by Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen and the East Grand Rapids native will also speak to the group.

The event will conclude with an All-Star game.

"The game will incorporate our officers," Sims added. "Officers will be coaching and helping and we will have referees out here just to make everything look professional."

Sims and Bell are basketball guys so it makes sense that would use it to try to help, but athletics can be an important way to bring people together.

"Sports is one of the only vehicles that you can unite everybody," Bell said. They don't care what ethnicity you are, where your background is or where you come from because when you combine sports together you have one common goal and that is to win and we know sports is a unifier, we know it in football, baseball, basketball. When you go out on that court you're only goal is to defeat that opponent so what better vehicle to use than sports."

'Unity in the Community' is scheduled for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday.