CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - It really felt like one of the first days of summer, not just because of the weather, but because there were kids playing on the playground and eating ice cream. But Thursday afternoon’s ice cream social at South First Street was about more than just a day outside.
The kids played a trivia game, yelling the answers and jumping around when they got it right. The winners got a pizza party, but it ended up being a tie and all the kids won the prize.
That came after the kids walked away with sweets - both ice cream and the board game Candy Land.
All of those festivities were organized by the B.U.C.K Squad: Brothers United to Cease the Killing.
“It’s important to get the kids involved, because the kids are the future,” said Pertelle Gilmore, the executive director of Guns Down Inc.
The kids in the South First Street community have grown up around violence, but Gilmore is trying to change that.
“I always tell people that small acorns grow up to be oak trees. So if we can cultivate and nurture the kids now,” he said, “then we can start to have a better society, have a better community.”
Gilmore and his B.U.C.K. Squad colleague Herb Dickerson say days like this are about showing kids there are good people there for them.
“We want to make our presence here known, that we will be here all the time to cut down the violence,” Dickerson said.
Gilmore added: “It’s good for them to see a Black male, someone who is like them, doing something productive and constructive, and just knowing that we care about them.”
Leaving the safety of their homes may be tough at times, Dickerson says.
“Being afraid over the years just from this environment down here on First Street, it probably made it a little frightening,” he said. “But I just grabbed their hands and said ‘come on, let’s go, we’re still here.’”
If the mission was giving the kids a good, safe time, mission accomplished.
“It’s fun,” said 8-year-old Kaiden. “I like to do this stuff every day, but this is the ‘funnest’ day I’ve ever had.”
Click here if you would like to donate to the B.U.C.K. Squad.