By BAILEY WRIGHT
Community members from throughout Bristol united together for the second annual ‘We are One Charity Softball Tournament’ on Saturday at Casey Field.
The tournament mixed local teachers, first responders, and community leaders into four teams, purposefully having people who didn’t know each other play together.
“The goal is to have people meet each other, not to go sit with the same people, but get to know their neighbor,” event founder Rippy Patton said.
The community-centered event featured a fire truck for kids to explore, the police chief dancing to Ayo & Teo’s “Rolex,” the Bristol Bulldogs with their own concession stand, and Miss Chrysanthemum helping to collect donations.
“This is a chance for us all to be together, because at the end of the day, we all make up the fabric of Bristol. It’s about time people got together,” Patton said.
The tournament collected school supplies and monetary donations for United Way of West Central Connecticut, with the goal of “stuffing a cruiser.” Because the cruiser was overflowing with donations last year, the fire department also brought a vehicle for even more supplies.
The event was born from Bristol residents Rippy Patton and Steve Bashaw, who wanted to take action in light of events in the news last year “concerning protests, politics and police issues,” said Bashaw.
“A lot of people were talking, not a lot of people were doing,” Patton said. “Bristol has always been a sports town, so we said, how ‘bout a softball game?”
Patton, who is also the vice president of the Bristol NAACP, brought his idea to the Bristol police chief and asked if they wanted to participate in the event.
From there, the city’s fire department, EMTs and teachers joined too. “It’s such a mixed bag of different people in the service community,” Patton said.
Patton took a moment before the games started on Saturday to recognize the service members that came out.
“The people playing in this game- you’re talking about your police, your fire, your EMTs- when we’re in trouble, these are the people that we call. As someone who benefits from your efforts every day, I owe you a thank you, so thank you,” Patton said.
John Biskupski, a Bristol firefighter, said he appreciated the chance to meet community members in a way that didn’t involve an emergency.
“These interactions are not something we get on a daily basis… So it’s wonderful in a relaxed environment to put a face to the community and also to the emergency personnel,” Biskupski said.
Bashaw mirrored the sentiment saying, “When these people are looking out for you and you know them like a friend- you met them and played alongside them or you’ve been to this event- you just feel closer, you feel like you can trust them.”
The event has had a positive impact on the police department’s relationship with the community, according to Bristol Police Chief Brian Gould.
“Police officers are no different than everyone else. (The tournament) is a wonderful way for us to get all together and and show our support and solidify our unity to each other,” Gould said.
Gould has hopes the event will continue for years, only getting “bigger and better.”
“It feels fantastic to know that I’m doing my part. It’s easy to be complacent and be one of many who have ideas and don’t really know how to put their foot forward and get the ball rolling,” Patton said. “Really, my hope, is that people see what we’re doing and they pick up the ball themselves and say, okay, if you guys are doing something like this, what can I do.”