CHICAGO — Families gathered Saturday on the South Side of Chicago for a basketball tournament connecting kids with opportunities and first responders in their community.

Nearly a thousand kids played in a very special basketball tournament at the Ark of Saint Sabina.

The event was a way to encourage youth in the community to stay involved in positive activities.

“My favorite thing to do in basketball is just go out and have fun,” Martell Williams said.

The 10th annual event is more than just a day of basketball.

“Basically empower the kids to keep striving for greatness and doing something positive,” Kierra Simmons said. “That’s really what it’s about. Just doing something positive.”

Organizers said the tournament is a way to get the youth in the community on a good path.

This year, representatives from the city were brought in so that between games, kids and teens could sign up for summer jobs with the park district.

“It’s all about trying to help the kids stay focused and out of trouble,” Larry Daniels, an organizer, said.

Many of the young athletes showed off their skills and already making big plans to stay focused on a future in basketball.

After the kids played, Chicago police officers and firefighters matched up on the hardwood for a chance for the community to interact with first responders.

Organizers also took a moment for a special tribute.

“This event is special because we’re honoring both the firefighters that lost their lives this week,” Daniels said.

Parents of the players were grateful for the day of play and the opportunity it provided for their kids.

“We’ve health with so much the past two years being in the pandemic, dealing with crime, seeing things every day on the news, so having this exposure is great for them and being out and socializing, it’s always great,” Asya Hayes said.

The hope is to hold more events like these across the city in the future.