SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Bridging the divide between police and the community was on full display Thursday night, during a special youth basketball game held at the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Winter Basketball All-Star Game at the Springfield Hall of Fame, bringing out local youth hoopers. It’s not just about connecting with local law enforcement but creating bonds with positive mentors in our community.

The Winter Basketball All-Star Game, at the Springfield Hall of Fame, brings out local youth hoopers. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno says, “we know that you can, and will excel on the court and off the court.”

It’s part of an ongoing effort for more than a decade to build relationships between law enforcement and community youth through sports. “Your commitment, your dedication to these kids, to this program is so valuable,” said Sheriff Nick Cocchi, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department. Which gives at-risk youth an opportunity to gain positive experiences.

“It’s about going out to these neighborhoods, trying to start these basketball leagues, and reach kids that probably never played in any basketball league,” adds Ed Caisse, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department.

Kids have fun on the court and build important skills like sportsmanship. Parents also volunteered their time. “Just to be able to take part in this with my son, he can see how of an awesome opportunity this is for him and the other kids involved, expressed Gabriel Martinez, coach, and parent.

Deputy Chief Rupert Daniel, Springfield Police expressed his enjoyment, “I was bouncing from home to home, the only thing constant I had in my life was sports.” And the officers use personal experience in hopes to inspire one child. “I was telling my officers, there’s nothing better than when you are walking down the halls of the police station, a young kind goes “hey coach!” and you are the reason why they are wearing their badge and it’s just a great thing.”

In attendance were the following:

• Holyoke 3rd and 4th grade all-stars

• Holyoke, Forest Park, and North End 5th and 6th-grade all-stars

• Holyoke, Forest Park, and North End 7th and 8th-grade all-stars

• Holyoke High School all-stars