Police, community come together for change after fatal shooting at recreation center

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Coaches, officials, and community members gathered at the Christy Recreation Center for youth amid the recent trends of gun violence in Philadelphia.

Coaches conducted basketball and football skills and drills Friday for kids ages 8 to 18-years-old on the 700 block of South 55th Street.

"We need to show the kids first and foremost love, that we care and that we're invested in their livelihoods," said Eugene Lett, a coach from the community.

On Thursday, March 11, someone opened fire on kids playing basketball on the court.

Three teenagers were struck, two were grazed, and another, 16-year-old Kahree Simmons, was shot in the back of the neck and killed.

The courts have sat empty ever since until Philadelphia police got involved with a new effort to turn things around from that dreadful tragedy.

Police and coaches are trying to mentor kids, teaching them sports, sportsmanship, and the importance of respecting one another.

"We've got mentors out here. All of our coaches are community members who grew up here, are alumni here, so we're just giving back," said Officer Justin Harris of the 18th Police District.

There was a good police presence on hand to make sure the kids felt safe. The coaches and members of the community did the rest.

"Our youth are the most precious gems that any community has. So we have to highlight them as being precious," said Kenton Meeks, a coach at Boy's Latin Charter School.

Coach Mike Carpenter said, "I promised God and myself that if I ever get the opportunity to change a young person's life, that's what my mission is. That's what I'm going to do."

Police from the 18th district will hold these clinics every Friday night from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. through August 27.

But they'll also be teaching other things.

"There's going to be podcasting...life skills, financing, just learning how to tie a tie. Resume building," said Harris.

During a time the Philadelphia Police Department has seen a depletion in their ranks amid unprecedented violence, officers like Shamssadeen Baukman are trying to make a change.

"It is a recruiting drive happening right now until the end of the month, so if you wanna be a part of this change that we're trying to do right now, sign up," said Baukman.
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