By LISA CAPOBIANCO
In response to the national events that emerged this summer, including the shooting death of police officers in Dallas, Texas, Bristol’s first responders, teachers and leaders have united for a charity event this month.
From the Bristol Police and Fire Departments to EMTs to teachers, a variety of community sectors will take part in a softball tournament on Saturday, Sept. 17 at Casey Field. The charity event titled, “We Are One,” will kick off at 6 p.m.
The idea for the event came from Bristol residents Rippy Patton and Steve Bashaw, who wanted to bring change during a time of tragic events. Patton serves as second vice president of the NAACP Chapter and Bashaw serves as a physical education teacher for Bristol Public Schools.
“Clearly in Bristol, there’s a great love of sports. We felt there was an opportunity there to… have some fun, sponsor a light-hearted event,” said Patton, adding how he has played softball with Bashaw for many years. “Once we put that energy out into the universe, it really took off.”
During the softball tournament, each team will consist of a representative from each partner involved with the event to demonstrate community pride.
“We’re going to throw everyone in a big melting bowl and mix it up,” said Patton, adding how the event could not happen without support from different community partners. “That way, we can create that camaraderie because while they’re both public servants, people just assume that police and fire [officials] all know each other.”
Bristol Firefighter John Biskupski, who is spearheading the fire department’s involvement with the event, said he hopes the softball tournament will give people a chance to connect more as a community.
He said 12 firefighters will play in the tournament.
“Having a softball tournament…is an opportunity to have a nice, relaxed venue to have a great time, to get to know each other better, and put a face to the public servants,” said Biskupski, adding how the fire department is excited to give back to the community.
Chief of Police Brian Gould said the Bristol Police Department feels honored to be a part of the event, which “is an example of what can happen when people are willing to get together and have a conversation.”
“We are all getting together outside of the work environment,” said Gould. “This allows us to get to know each other better outside of our formal roles.”
Gould and Biskupski agreed that the event also sends another message to the community.
“We are all human beings,” said Gould, who thanked all community members for the event. “The reality is we are all very similar. I believe it’s important for our community to demonstrate this together.”
“We’re regular people who come out and do a job, and we have a lot invested in the city of Bristol,” said Biskupski. “We’re there for them.”
Admission is free for the softball tournament, but participants and spectators are asked to make a free-will donation, a backpack donation or any kind of school supplies. The goal is to “Stuff a Cruiser” with enough supplies to make a significant donation to the United Way of West Central Connecticut’s Adopt-A-Child Back to School Program. The Bristol Police Department has donated a cruiser for that day.
Patton said the response from volunteers for this has been phenomenal. Contestants of this year’s Miss Mum pageant have stepped up to collect donations during the event.
“When people have an opportunity to do something positive and they see it in motion, they run to it,” said Patton.
Moving forward, Patton said the event will show Bristol that there are people who are dedicated to strengthening the community, adding that he hopes the softball tournament will become an annual tradition.
“When people start to step up, it’s contagious,” said Patton, adding that he hopes others will be inspired to organize similar events that unite the community in the future. “At the end of the day, you want to give people a reason to smile, and I think that’s what we’re going to accomplish at this event.”
Gould said Bristol can set an example for other communities through events like “We Are One.”
“We will continually work hard to earn and maintain the trust of our community,” said Gould. “We all have different roles in society, but I believe that we all have the same goal in mind—that is to live a good, happy, safe and productive life, to be there for our children and each other. No one can do this alone and nobody should want to.”
The softball tournament will take place on Saturday, Sept. 17, 6 p.m. at Casey Field, located on Lake Avenue, Bristol. Anyone who cannot attend, but would like to make a donation can send a check to the United Way at 200 Main St., Bristol, and include a note titled “We Are One” on the check.