HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – A Holyoke neighborhood playground at the corner of Jackson and South Canal Streets served as a nurturing zone for dozens of neighborhood children Saturday.

It’s where the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department kicked off its Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative Basketball League and basketball and good citizenship converge.

“It’s great because I’ve been working at the sheriff’s department for 28 years. And, I’ve seen so many inmates come in, and how many times we said, ‘this guy never had a shot,'” said Unit Director Edward Caisse. He told 22News,”For the sheriff to have the genius to come out and work with youth and families to try to get kids connected at a young age, to prevent them from being the next generation of gang members, drug dealers and criminals, it’s brilliant in my perspective.”

Billed as a family fun day event, Saturday’s gathering helped prepare children for summer activities and could well play a vital role in their overall upbringing.