Dominique Strong remembers growing up in a South Flint neighborhood where there were plenty of activities for youth.
Living at the Howard Estates apartments across from Brennan Park, she and her friends frequented the Brennan Center, which held fun programs and events. But today the center is a seniors-only facility and the community has one less outlet for children.
Guided by the efforts of neighborhood residents Barbara Griffton and Sandra Robinson, Strong joined the effort to create a new, family-friendly landmark in Ward No. 7. Strong and Dana Brock adopted Brennan Park in 2015 through the Keep Genesee County Beautiful program and have regularly coordinated free activities there, including the After 9 12th Annual Kickball Game Saturday afternoon, July 21 at the park, 1301 Pingree Ave.
The friendly contest began as a small, casual outing and eventually became a popular event for children and adults.
“Twelve years ago my buddy and his family, they were having a birthday party on Barks Street in the neighborhood, and they were playing kickball in the street,” says Strong, 33. “It was becoming dangerous. So one of the kids said, ‘Why don’t we go to the park?’”
Continuing the annual summer game was a natural decision when Strong and Brock began organizing youth events in Brennan Park.
“It’s a family affair, so that’s why we incorporate the adults. Believe it or not, the adults enjoy playing kickball, just as much as the kids,” Strong says.
Located near the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, Brennan Park has been kept in fairly good condition, but Robinson says “elders” Robinson and Griffton crusaded for its renovation. Both women have since died.
Since the park’s upgrades, including the installation of fitness equipment, activities at the site have made it an increasingly popular neighborhood resource. Attractions this year have included an Easter egg hunt and a three-on-three basketball tournament that was well-received and competitive.
“It was awesome,” Strong says. “We had 60 kids participate.”
There are other regular activities at Brennan throughout this summer, such as “Literacy Wednesdays.” Flint Public Library staff members lead children in reading, followed by craftmaking, based on the week’s chosen book. Meet Up & Eat Up meals are served regularly in the park as part of the annual United Way-convened, summer nutrition program for eligible students.
Saturday’s kickball will be a highlight, but free food, bounce houses, face-painting, basketball, live music and other field day-style events will be featured, too. Facing off in one main match will by “Dominique’s Team,” a generically identified, unisex roster led by Strong, versus the “Kickball Divas,” a squad of all-female foot assassins.
“It’s a fun-filled event,” Strong says. “The children play first, followed by the adults.”
Residents from other neighborhoods, local businesses, friends, and family of participants are all invited to form teams and enjoy the festivities.
About 200 people are expected throughout the day.
“We just want to share our story and to help shine a positive light,” Strong says. “Brennan Park is all for the children and I don’t think we have enough exposure for the residents.”
A medical professional and student at University of Michigan-Flint, Strong’s and the park committee’s time and resource investments are labors of love, but she says the sacrifice is worthwhile.
“What makes us smile is seeing those children, running around all day, and eating good.”
For more information, to contribute, or to participate, please call (810) 280-6776, (810) 447-7842 or (810) 293-5298.