BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Photo left to right: Commissioner Kerry S. Wiggins, Sr., Sheriff Dennis Lemma, Seminole County Sheriff, Kaylan Wiggins, Seminole High School Alumn/Quarterback for Florida International University (FIU), Gabriel Davis, Seminole High School Alumn/former UCF Wide Receiver, now playing for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, Cecil Smith, Police Chief, Sanford Police Department, Britt Henderson, City of Sanford Parks and Recreation Supervisor, and Captain Cornelius Blue, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.
SANFORD, FL- In a time when law enforcement has been under intense scrutiny and worldwide protests, leaders in Seminole County are working hard to build a good relationship between officers and its citizens. Sanford Commissioner Kerry Wiggins, Sr. District 2 is enthusiastic about a new partnership with the Sanford Police Department, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Sanford establishing an Adult and Youth Flag Football League to continue building relationships with Law Enforcement and the local community.
The goal of the program is to potentially fill a gap that we feel exists right now, said Sheriff Dennis Lemma, Seminole County Sheriff. It extends way beyond finding meaningful productive activities for the youth and adults, it really creates this relationship of leadership, followership, and mentorship, and that doesnt apply just to the law enforcement officers that are going to partner, this is every adult that comes out to participate in these sporting programs its just a really good, healthy, environment.
The games will be played by the Sanford Historical Stadium, there are two fields there that will host the league.
We have been ongoing trying to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement, said Britt Henderson, City of Sanford Parks and Recreation Supervisor. We are trying to continue to keep this going not just wait for an incident to occur to do it. We want to have stuff in place, not just jumping the gun and providing programs or services when something happens in the community or the nation.
While meetings and discussions are still ongoing, the tentative start date is mid-September. They are keeping COVID-19 in mind but are working to be prepared in case they can begin on schedule. Once the season starts, games will be played on the weekend and practice times will be determined.
My main objective is to bring us all together, said Commissioner Wiggins. The kids and citizens will be able to see these law enforcement officers in another atmosphere, other than riding in their uniforms or arresting people. They are going to see that these are some great citizens as well they just have uniforms on and a job to do.
The season prices will be $20 for kids and $300 per adult team. The ages will range from 5-8, 9-11, 12-14, and the adult league will be 18+. There will be co-ed teams available for men and women who want to play together.
Officers and other employees will be screened through their departments and the most important qualification they are looking for is officers with passion and patience. Then their collective group will find the right place for them. Some will be participating in flag football leagues while others will be mentoring and coaching.
Commissioner Wiggins recently reached out to the Chief of the fire department as well. They have also been having conversations with the Sanford African American Pastors Alliance, which many of the people partnering or participating with this initiative are active members of.
Some local businesses are going to help sponsor the league and teams. Additionally, Commissioner Wiggins and Henderson have coached players that are playing in the NFL or have played in the NFL and they will be reaching out to them to see if they want to sponsor any of the teams.
The awesome part is that some of these guys will be able to volunteer their time to coach as well as play. The moms, girlfriends, and wives will be able to go out [play on the co-ed team] and support the event. If you cant sponsor just to come out and fellowship and have a good time as a city, said Commissioner Wiggins. Being that Britt and I are really close and weve been doing different events out in Seminole High School- where Im still out coaching and he used to coach- for over 10 years now, a lot of those young men are grown now and have their own children so its not a problem to get a family atmosphere going.
The idea came as one of the initiatives that Commissioner Wiggins had when he came into office. He would speak about his vision of offering a safe and comfortable environment for youth and adults to strengthen their relationship with law enforcement. So last year when the recreation department was in discussion about bringing more services to citizens, specifically the youth, they had the idea to bring about a flag football league, which has phased out about 12 years ago. The idea was then brought to law enforcement, who were very excited to get involved.
Without question crime and delinquency are symptoms of other problems and if we want to make our communities safer, if we want to make people healthier and more enriched, we need to invest on the front end before people get tied up in the criminal justice system, said Sheriff Lemma. I think this helps on both ends. It helps our citizens, particularly our youth, understand law enforcement. But probably more importantly, it helps our law enforcement officers to understand our youth.
Registration information will be available on the city website www.sanfordfl.gov in the next couple weeks, stay tuned.