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Rebound program for kids

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Sheriff’s deputy Alyssa McConnell, right, blocks Jackson Patterson, as Aiden Brooks, center, heads for a layup through the heat from Kasia Carter, right center, and Laikyen Doak, left, at Flanders Field and Playground Wednesday.

Growing up, his experience with law enforcement was negative.

“I learned as a child (that) when the cops show up, get up out of here,” explained Jackson Patterson, 33, of Marietta. “Back then the blinders were on and I thought, they’re here for no good… Back then I didn’t see the drunk and belligerent, I just saw them taking away my dad.”

But Patterson matured, gained experience and realized the officers were doing their jobs and were human themselves. Next week, he’ll start working in conjunction with area law enforcement to provide a free basketball program for children.

“I want to break down those barriers in where I grew up so these kids have a shot and can make better decisions than I did,” he explained.

For the past three years, he has earned the trust of parents in the neighborhood where he was once the one wearing handcuffs, now giving back as a coach for basketball and baseball.

Now the former felon is focused on catching the children of Marietta’s west side, who might fall through the current social programming cracks and helping them see the humanity in police before they head down his previous path.

And he has the buy-in from local law enforcement, professionals and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

“It’s our chance to build a better rapport with one another and anything we (as officers) can do to support community involvement like this we’d encourage,” said Sgt. Ryan Huffman of the Marietta Police Department.

Huffman and other officers of MPD and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, as well as other first responders, plan to join in on a free program Patterson is organizing. It will begin Monday and run throughout the summer, every week night from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Flanders Field and Playground.

It’s called MOV Rebound for Kids, and the concept is simple– be a sounding board for the children of the west side to see that they are cared for and listened to by those in positions of authority.

“We’ll not only have volunteers from our department, the fire department and even the sheriff’s office down there on their own time but also will encourage our zone officer to stop by in uniform,” said Huffman. “Generally, unfortunately, when the police department is at your house it’s not a good experience. That kid on the domestic call is only seeing us taking their mom or dad to jail. But with this I see it more of an opportunity to show the friendly side, to just show that we are human behind the badge.”

Fantasy Green, known as the village mom by many of the neighborhood’s children, said she is excited for the program to begin.

“Our kids should get to feel safe coming to their park but I haven’t trusted it enough to let my kid come by herself,” said Green, noting her daughter Laiken Doak’s hesitation the moment Deputy Sheriff Alyssa McConnell arrived Wednesday in uniform to shoot some hoops, an informal game before the program begins.

“She learned that from her dad, who has struggled and had run-ins,” she said. “She’s nervous but I hope she opens up.”

Green is not alone in her concerns.

“I hear from moms over here that can’t afford the good things that the Boys and Girls Club or Ely Chapman are doing. They’re giving great programs, but $90 a week can still be out of some (families’) reach,” Patterson explained.

Doak did connect with McConnell Wednesday once she saw the deputy pick up the ball and dribble.

“Oh, she’s good,” Patterson heard Doak mumble.

And then the pair joined the fray of more than 10 neighborhood children and parents shooting hoops.

“This is going to be awesome,” said Alex Adams, 9, of Marietta, as he showed off a pretend police badge. “All of the kids started showing up and we started playing.” Patterson explained that basketball, face painting, foot races and other planned activities in the free program are simply avenues to a bigger goal.

“In the end, it’s to be a safe place, a safe block that your kids can go and have fun for free and maybe be inspired into a career they didn’t think they had a shot at or to stay away from the wrong choices,” he said.

The MOV Rebound for Kids program begins Monday with a kickoff of music, refreshments provided by Huntington Bank, popsicles and games.

If you go

¯ What: Free summer program for youth called MOV Rebound for Kids.

¯ Where: Flanders Field and Playground in Harmar.

¯ When: 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning June 4.

¯ Who: Any Marietta child is welcome to attend. Volunteer first responders will be participating.

Source: Jackson Patterson and Sgt. Ryan Huffman.

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