Police Shoot Hoops at FC Summer Camp


Police descended in force on LifeTown in Livingston on Thursday, August 25. But they were not responding to any emergency or disturbance, rather, they came to play ball! With Friendship Circle’s summer camp in session, they were challenged to a game with the campers, children and teens with special needs.

Swish! Matt made a basket nearly every time he tried. Not so for Officer Sean Whalen, who missed his first shot from the 3-point line. Police Officer Cordero dribbled past Matt’s tough defense and missed his shot. Dribbling again, Zach intercepted and Swish! Then, Ava stood at the foul line and sure enough, Swish! Same for Hannah.

Cole, in his wheelchair, dribbled across the court and passed the ball to Max, who took the shot. Everyone cheered, and Officer Whalen sent it back to him for a second try on the rebound. And then Officer Whalen returned the ball to each camper gathered on the foul line, until they all made successful baskets.

Because of the heat, the group played on the indoor court, with a specially designed acoustic ceiling that absorbs sound to make it more comfortable for those with sensitivity.

The visit marked the second for the Livingston Police Department. In the spring, a group of officers took a tour in honor of Autism Awareness Month and had a chance to see the indoor Shoppes in action. “We knew we wanted to come back to interact with participants,” said Officer Joy Klapal, who organized both visits.

Officer Ralph Kolbusz was so excited to introduce his fellow officers to the facility. “This place is so impressive to say to least,” he said as he arrived. Asked what he was looking forward to at the game, he said, “To see their smiles! It’s all for them,” he said, referring to the participants.

“We know families are busy and kids with special needs work extra hard. We want them to see officers as they would see their brothers, sisters, husbands and wives – just as fellow citizens,” said Police Chief Gary Marshuetz. “And in case they ever do need an officer, we want them to feel comfortable and know we are here to help them navigate their lives. We want to be part of the solution and let families know they have our support. We are passionate about what we do and we hope it shows.”

The visit occurred in the midst of the Friendship Circle’s three weeks of summer camp, with over 75 attendees and hundreds of teen and adult volunteers. Over the course of the hour or so that the officers were on the court, many campers joined in. Most were focused on the game, but some were busy chatting and high fiving the officers, excited by the visitors.

“We want the participants to interact with as many people in the community as possible, and to feel valued by everyone,” said Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, CEO of LifeTown and Friendship Circle. “We hope this is the first of many events together.”

By the end of the visit, there were plenty of smiles all around. “We’ve had so much fun here,” said Marshuetz as the group prepared to leave. “I’m not sure I’m going to get the guys back to work!”

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