ONE OF the hardest parts of social distancing through COVID-19 was missing community events and opportunities to connect with friends and neighbors. The Nick Carey 3v3 Basketball Tournament in Manchester has been one of my favorite events over the past decade. It was cancelled last summer due to the pandemic, so presenting it again this year felt important and special. I am honored to play a role in this incredible event.

The Nick Carey 3v3 Basketball Tournament was created by Manchester Firefighter Jim Terrero in partnership with Manchester Professional Firefighters IAFF 856. It began as just a tournament in Sheridan-Emmett Park across from Beech Street Elementary School and has since evolved into a community block party. Nick Carey, who had long been associated with the event, passed in 2016 and the tournament was renamed in his honor.

After missing a year, this summer’s event felt especially joyful. There was an incredible sense of unity and connectedness. And it was a great party! There was live music with local artists performing everything from Afrobeat (African pop music), to reggaeton (Spanish reggae music), to hip hop and pop music. Manchester firefighters were there, using their truck to make sprinklers for the kids to play in. There was even a free Afrobeat dance class taught by Millicent Alhamis. Millicent is a remarkable young woman who graduated from Manchester’s Trinity High School, earned an undergraduate degree in biology from St. John’s and is now working on a master’s degree in IT.

There was delicious rice, chicken and empanadas from Don Quixote Restaurant. Sandra Almonte, the owner, generously donated beyond what was ordered for the event. The food was a hit — everyone loved it. I am proud to say that out of 250 people that were there, anyone who wanted food was able to eat. It was a happy day with lots of laughter and celebrating.

As always, Jim did a fantastic job running the tournament. He never uses refs, he makes the teams call the shots. When players know they have to manage the calls, it elevates their engagement, involvement and accountability. There were three tiers of players — out of school, high school, middle/elementary school — and there were bigger cash prizes than ever for winning teams in each. We’re grateful to Manchester Professional Firefighters IAFF 856 and a generous community leader for donating to make those prizes more exciting. More prizes were awarded for a dance competition.

I met tournament founder Jim Terrero more than two decades ago when we were ELL students at Beech Street Elementary. Jim is from the Dominican Republic and, like me, immigrated to America with his family for a better life. Our paths crossed again when we were both in college and started working for a Manchester after-school program called BRING IT! (which stands for Bringing Refugees, Immigrants and Neighbors Gently Into Tomorrow). BRING IT! offers free homework help, career exploration, art, soccer and dance classes. Jim planned the schedule of activities, organized the buses and encouraged and disciplined kids. I mostly focused on teaching dance and some of the career exploration programs.

Jim and I both wanted to give back to the community we grew up in. Even after we graduated from college and started careers (Jim is the first Hispanic firefighter in Manchester), we both devoted time to the community with BRING IT! and other community events. When Jim wanted to start a tournament, I was immediately on board. He focused on basketball and on working with the city and the fire department to sponsor. I planned the entertainment and performing arts elements.

The Nick Carey 3v3 Basketball Tournament takes place in what is, without a doubt, the most diverse square mile in the entire state. There are families from dozens of countries, speaking dozens of languages. I know what it’s like to walk in their shoes because I have. I know how meaningful it is to have people from your own community create a space and a gathering for no other reason than to be together.

The event, July 10, was incredibly fulfilling for me. It brought me so much joy to see kids I worked with at BRING IT! and had not seen in more than a year come up and say hello, to see them take the community dance class and see them enjoy a fun event created just for them. This is the embodiment of the principles I use in my work as an education and workforce consultant. It’s a reminder that one must go alongside one’s community, participate in it, to figure out how to contribute authentically and meaningfully.

We are already looking forward to next year’s Nick Carey 3v3 Basketball Tournament. In the meantime, Jim and I are collaborating with our friend (and fellow BRING IT! volunteer) Nitanga Jean de Dieu, who will be hosting a soccer tournament at Sheridan-Emmett Park next month.

Deo Mwano is a social-impact innovator focused on education, technology, business, community and individual development. His honors include the Union Leader’s 40 Under Forty in 2016 and Leadership New Hampshire Class of 2017. He runs his own consultancy firm and lives in Manchester.

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