LEWISTON — For some kids, it was a weird juxtaposition. There were police cruisers and uniformed officers everywhere and there was even an armored truck. But there was also Wiffle ball and popcorn, music and glow sticks.

Strange as it seemed, it appeared the police were having fun.

“At first, my youngest said, ‘Can I really go out there and play with the cops?'”  Gabrielle Blais said. “He didn’t want to get into trouble.”

Minutes later, her 5-year-old son, Elliot, had a plastic bat in his hands and he was whacking every pitch offered up by veteran police officer Joe Philippon. Before long, the boy was running the bases, making faces and even ribbing the officer a bit.

Turns out, he could have fun with the lawmen and not get into trouble at all.

“It was good for him to find that out,” his mother said.

It was outdoor movie night at the South Lewiston ball field. Nobody was talking about it very much, but the horrors of Dallas were on their minds. The local group Lewiston Rocks produced blue glow sticks to pay tribute to the fallen officers, but also to remind people that the relationship between cops and citizens isn’t always a contentious one.

They made that statement quietly.

“There are too many protests, too many movements,” said Lewiston Rocks founder Heidi Sawyer. “Just come out and watch a movie. We’re all in this together. Let’s be a community. Let’s be one.”

No problem there. Kids and police played Wiffle ball so arduously an hour before showtime, most of them were drenched with sweat by the time the sun went down.

“This is actually really fun,” said Blais’ oldest boy, 9-year-old Braiden.

He’d seen Philippon and other officers around school, he said, but until movie night, he had never met them, let alone played ball with them.

In the wake of the Dallas shootings and the ugliness that followed, some say events like outdoor movie night take on greater importance.

“It goes to show the strength of the community when people come together for something like this,” Philippon said. “We have to be aware of what’s going on around us, but we also have to take care of the basics, which means building relationships.”

It didn’t hurt that Wednesday’s movie was “The Sandlot,” a film requested more than any other by the people of Lewiston. Dozens turned out for the movie, spreading blankets and lawn chairs across the ball field as dusk approached. If anyone was nervous about recent events, it didn’t show.

“This really helps to let the community know that things are safe,” said Eddie Greyfox Burgess, who was there with Carpe Diem, a substance abuse and mental health organization.

“They hear all these terrible things on the news,” he said. “They hear there’s crack and meth and all kinds of drugs, but you can come down here and play baseball with the police and watch a movie. It’s a safe environment for everyone. The kids can get informed, but they’re also having fun.”


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