By ALISSA SCOTT
Recorder News Staff
Hundreds packed into Veteran's Field Saturday to promote non-violence in a three-on-three basketball tournament hosted by W1SHFUL:TH1NK1NG, a community organization.
The second annual tournament spawned from a dire need, expressed by locals, to remember two teens who were killed just outside Amsterdam's city limits last July. Jonathan Dejesus, 13, and Paul Damphier, 16, were found in a soybean field 10 days after they were shot and killed. Two teens were charged with their death.
The game fell two days after Matthew Phelps, 16, and Anthony Brasmiester, 17, were sentenced to prison terms. Phelps will spend between 15 years and life behind bars and Brasmiester will spend 25 to life in prison.
Wearing T-shirts with the names of Dejesus and Damphier, participants formed teams of three and played against each another.
“I’m doing this for Pauly and Jonathan,” Runako Bratchwaite, a friend of the two, said. “They were like friends to all of us. We’re respecting their families and supporting them.”
Bratchwaite, who had just lost a game, said his team, RAJ, is “about to take it all.”
“No, I don’t think it,” Bratchwaite said. “I know it. We’re going to win it all.”
Light rain sprinkled throughout the day, but it didn't dampen the spirits of the players or the purpose of the day. TJ Czeski, founder of W1SHFUL:TH1NK1NG said the turnout was much more than he expected and that more than 60 teams registered to play.
“If you look around at everyone, it’s unbelievable to reflect on it,” Czeski said. “Everyone’s happy. It’s a little chaotic at times, but it’s the community that’s making this possible.”
Besides those playing, many showed their support by watching the games or enjoying some activities also available to attendees. A bounce house was set up on the lawn behind the basketball court for children and a dunk tank sat in the tennis courts.
Music was played throughout the games and there were also several shop vendors selling T-shirts, hats and food.
During breaks, players could participate in a foul shot, or 3-point shot contest
Players were charged a $10 fee to participate, which John Sumpter, a W1SHFUL:TH1NK1NG member, said will benefit the city of Amsterdam in someway undetermined as of yet. In the past, the organization has used it towards remodeling floors in a school gym.
Last year, $3,000 was raised, but Sumpter thinks they can reach $5,000 this year.
“Just to bring the community together where there’s smiles on people’s faces, just to remember why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Czeski said. “It’s all because of what happened. Unfortunately, those teenagers aren’t with us today, but this is them right now. This is their legacy.”