ATLANTIC CITY — The turnout for Sunday’s inaugural Brothers Over Bullies flag football event at Dolphins Field hardly surprised organizers Dayshawn Reynolds and Lamont Carson.
“Atlantic City gets all this negative energy, but (we’re) a family,” Carson said. “We’re going to stick it out together no matter what.”
The former Atlantic City High School football players organized the all-day event — which featured nearly 100 local athletes ranging from 10 years-old to 20-somethings — to give a voice to a community suffering through a rash of violence that has included homicides and suicides. Both Reynolds and Carson, who devote their time to the city’s Boys and Girls Club, saw an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.
“We’re thinking about bringing the community together and putting the energy toward something else other than violence,” Carson said.
The goal, Reynolds said, was to give the community hope.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” he said. “Just for people to get up and take that time out to play football with us, that says a lot.”
Kaleb Feliciano, a rising junior at Atlantic County Institute of Technology who plays running back and linebacker for Atlantic City High School, was among those who took advantage of the chance to play Sunday.
The 16-year-old said he was playing with and against friends, which made the event, and the good-natured trash-talking, that much more interesting. Feliciano also had a small bet with a friend on the opposing team that he would get an interception.
“It’s good competition, and I felt like it’s an all-around fun activity to do,” Feliciano said. “It’s (also) a good community thing, and everybody getting together and doing something positive for the city.”
Kaleb’s father, William, found a shady spot under a tree just outside the fence where he spent most of the morning watching the younger teams play. He was impressed with what he saw.
“There’s a lot of raw talent out here,” he said matter-of-factly.
Besides enjoying the on-the-field play, Feliciano said he was pleased the city’s youth had a constructive outlet to harness some of that idle time that parents sometimes dread during the summer when school is out.
“It’s good to get these kids involved in something organized,” he said. “To just give these kids a venue to be themselves and have fun in a safe environment and keep them (off the) streets. ... Anything that keeps them off the street and busy and occupied, I’m for it.”
Sunday’s event featured multiple games for three divisions — varsity (ages 10-13), high school (14-18) and college (18 and older) — as well as skills challenges and live dance performances. Local vendors and volunteers provided food and drinks throughout the daylong event.
Carson and Reynolds said Brothers Over Bullies already is looking at hosting future events but declined to give any more information until they could iron out some details.
“If you want to have a successful event, you have to put a lot into it,” Reynolds said with a wry smile.