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Kansas City picnic brings police and community together

Updated: 2013-07-28T02:33:49Z

By TONY RIZZO

The Kansas City Star

The idea, thought up by adults, was to bring the community and police department together.

But for hundreds of Kansas City kids, Saturday’s picnic and fair at 31st Street and Indiana Avenue had a different meaning.

“It was fun,” said 7-year-old Kamaya Baker, summing up the reaction of many other children who enjoyed free snow cones, pony rides and jumping in inflated bouncy houses.

Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté led the contingent of police officers, many of whom brought their own families to enjoy the festivities along with hundreds of community members.

“This is an opportunity to bring the entire community together, to build relationships,” Forté said. “It shows that we’re human. We’re just like everybody else.”

Besides the police department, the event was organized by All Christians Together Serving, a ministry founded by Vennie Gonzalez to work toward stopping violence in Kansas City. A cadre of volunteers from the group and area churches operated carnival games and food booths at Saturday’s event.

“The city needs more of these,” Gonzalez said. “The community is not just one neighborhood. It’s the whole city. We’re not just one group.”

There were prayers and music from the stage, and tables were set up to provide information about health and other community resources. Police vehicles and equipment were on display.

Children clambered into a police armored vehicle and strained under the weight of the body armor and other equipment worn by tactical officers.

“It was heavier than I thought it would be,” said 13-year-old George Goins of Kansas City. “But I can understand why. They’re getting shot at.”

As Forté made the rounds Saturday, he was greeted by a steady stream of positive comments and thanks from people who recognized him. The chief said it showed how beneficial such events can be for the city.

“I think this will make a real difference in the long run,” he said.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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