By Athena Dawson | [email protected]
On Saturday Jan. 27, the Queens borough president’s office hosted a Queens Mental Wellness Basketball Classic at St. Francis Prep high school. The event was sponsored by Metro Health Plus and Ponce Bank, and featured other local organizations that deal with mental wellness throughout the borough. The basketball game was a friendly event between elected officials and their staffers, NYC agency employees, city employees and NYPD officers.
Clare Collins, interim director of health and human resources, came up with the idea to do the basketball classic as she is a basketball fan. “We had a staff soccer game and I was like, we should do a basketball game. Let’s invite elected officials, and it turns out January is mental health awareness month so this is perfect.”
Collins worked with her supervisor Kalil Bragg, a St. Francis Prep alum, to organize the teams, reach out to organizations and book the space. Bragg, who is the director of community boards, felt the basketball game was a great way to bring mental health awareness to the community. “We’re just trying to bring awareness to mental health, we want to make sure the Queens community is taking mental health seriously and we want to do it in a fun and engaging way,” he said.
Family members and supporters filled the bleachers in the gym as the friendly game between team gray and team blue began. The basketball game was high energy and closely matched in the first half, with the gray team leading 30-28 before half time. Halftime featured a step show performance by the St. Francis Terriers Cheerleading team, which brought a round of applause from the energetic crowd.
At half time, Queens Borough President Richards spoke about his optimism in playing the rest of the game. “I’m feeling good. It’s for a good cause, the opposition is holding our own but we’re going to turn it up the next half for our borough. Once again we are focusing on our mental health and finding these moments…I’m glad we can show that we can have a little fun too and let our hair down,” he said.
Assemblyman Ed Brosnstein made an appearance, dropping points on the court, and expressed his excitement about the basketball game. “It’s an opportunity to spread awareness about positive mental health, and it’s also an opportunity to play basketball with the community,” he said. The game came to an end with a final score of 59 to 53, with gray being the winning team.