Mercy Elite Sports Performance, a member of St. Mary Mercy Livonia, recently held their fifth annual Justice Bowl at Total Sports Wixom.
The annual event brings together local police, schools, club sports organizations, local service men and women, and veterans for some friendly competition at a community flag football tournament.
It is hosted annually around Veterans Day to honor veterans and promote guiding behaviors of justice, mercy, courage, stewardship, reverence and integrity. Each of the six teams at the tournament are named after each one of these core values.
Justice Bowl, says Daniel Wolocko PT, SCS, CSC, director of Mercy Elite Sports Performance at St. Mary Mercy Livonia and an organizer of the event, started from the program’s partnership with local schools, including Schoolcraft College, Detroit Catholic Central and St. Catherine of Siena Academy in Wixom.
“We have a lot of stakeholders in the community, and we connect with them and they give us their feedback on what the community needs are,” he said. “This Justice Bowl is kind of organically grown from those relationships.”
And so, five years ago the idea to have a flag football tournament inviting service men and women, local police departments and youth connections was born, with a goal to promote positive and healthy relationships in the community.
“Sometimes the officers feel like they’re a little isolated from the youth, and the youth don’t really see them outside of a uniform. Once they get together and are actually playing on the same team, by the end you’re seeing them laughing and playing together. It’s a way to build community,” Wolocko said.
In the age of COVID-19, it’s also a way for local youth to safely stay active. The program was organized with COVID-19 safety measures in mind; all participants were screened for symptoms, their temperature was taken prior to entering the facility, face masks were required and social distancing was observed.
“It’s an opportunity to do something really safe,” Wolocko said. “A lot of kids in the area are looking for things to do outside of their school sports. Us being healthcare compliant, it allows them to have a little more confidence. They can get out and do something with social distancing and masks. Kids want to do more things and it opens the door to that.”
Wolocko says there have been talks about possibly expanding the event or creating a league, saying, “I hope it can set the stage for others to do similar things on a regular basis.”