A Party in the Park: Overbrook Park, Ottawa
September 11, 2020
This contribution from Marie-Caroline Badjeck and her group ‘Overbrook Community Association’ is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.
Overbrook Park is an extension of my house. It’s where my son plays with his friends, where youth play basketball on steamy summer nights, and where outdoor musicals are performed. The park is adjacent to our community center, where the Overbrook Community Association (OCA) meetings take place, where free books are given to kids, and where community members practice music and sports or participate in after-school programs.
But in November 2018 our community was shaken to the core: gunshots were fired at 4 pm in close proximity of Overbrook Park. It was overwhelming – I felt angry that this shooting took place at a time where kids run free in the park, and I felt helpless to see gun violence so close to home. How can such a welcoming neighbourhood be the stage of such a senseless act?
With other members of OCA, we wanted to reclaim our park and write our own narrative, about a community that is strong, diverse, and proud of its youth. In partnership with the Rideau Rockliffe Community Resource Center’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC), we applied to a TD Park Grant to organize an event for youth, by youth, and to celebrate youth.
“Party in the Park” was the result of many brainstorming sessions and of a serendipitous encounter in the spring of 2019. After playing in the park with my son, I saw a flyer in the community center, “Free Basketball training for Overbrook Youth. Contact Manock”. I wanted to meet him. With the YAC, we had thought of organizing a basketball competition, but despite my enthusiasm for the Toronto Raptors and my high school days as a point guard, I knew we needed help. In the end, I just showed up to one of his basketball practices, and we started chatting. Five minutes in, I knew Manock was our guy: his passion for the game and the kids, his love for Overbrook and the fact that he did not blink an eye while my son wreaked havoc on his class with his toddler-level enthusiasm.
Fast-forward to September 2019. More than 100 people attended “Party in the Park”, with 40 players participating in the basketball competition, hopefully, the first of many more events of this kind.
The community links forged during this event are enduring. Manock Lual, CEO of Prezdential Media, is now the Chair of OCA’s Safety Committee. Since COVID-19 has forced OCA to cancel all events and find new ways to connect with residents, the Safety Committee launched a fundraiser to provide backpacks filled with school supplies, a reusable mask and a tee-shirt to local youth. OCA also continues to work with the YAC, including on a mural in the heart of Overbrook.
Parks connect us to nature. But they also connect us to each other, weaving the threads of the social fabric that makes our community stronger, no matter what.
About Marie-Caroline Badjeck and the Overbrook Community Association
The Overbrook Community Association is a group of motivated residents collaborating to make life better for everyone in their dynamic community on the East side of Ottawa. At OCA, Marie-Caroline coordinates special projects with youth and environmental focus. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, the OCA has devoted their volunteer resources to delivering food to community members in need, conducting regular check-ins and providing support with financial aid applications and connecting people with community resources.
To find out more about the work of the Overbrook Community Association, Prezdential Media and the Youth Advisory Council, follow them on Instagram @613HumansofOverbrook @PrezdentialHoops @ward13yac and on Facebook.
Text edited for length by Marjolaine Provost, Overbrook Community Association.
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This contribution from Marie-Caroline Badjeck and her group ‘Overbrook Community Association’ is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.Choose Another Park Story