Five thousand strong converged at West Park earlier this month to celebrate the eighth annual Unity Day Gathering held by the Northside Oldtimers.
“God blessed us and the weekend,” explained North Side Oldtimers co-founder Fred “Scrappy” Bulls.
The Northside Oldtimers is a group of survivors made up of men and women from various North Side neighborhoods who have come together to give back to the communities in which they grew up. The group’s purpose is to foster and promote peace, unity and harmony among the children of the 19 communities that make up Pittsburgh’s North Side. It caters to children in the kindergarten through eighth grade level who are most susceptible to positive change.
The group encourages kids to squash violence and division by fostering friendships and alliances through several activities throughout the year. One of which being the two-day unity gathering.
The Unity Day Gathering was proceeded by the Children’s March Against Violence, which started at 11 a.m. The Unity Gathering ran until 9 p.m. and featured face painting, a petting zoo and free refreshments for the kids. The group’s annual Praise in the Park, which typically takes place on the final day of the weekend, was cancelled for the second year in a row due to weather.
Despite that, Bulls feels the weekend was a success.
“God’s a funny God. He didn’t let it rain until the kids got their day and that’s what this is all about,” said Bulls, a lifelong North Side resident. “We didn’t see the kids doing anything out of line and there were some hardcore guys there. We just want to stop the kids from going to jail. I’m never going to get burned out doing this. I have people all around me who won’t let this fail.”
Proceeds from the Unity Day Gathering benefit the group’s hosted children activities. One of the most popular activities include monthly free skating parties held the first Sunday of each month at the Roller Dome Roller Rink, on Neville Island, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The group has been holding the skating parties as long as they’ve been holding the Unity Day Gathering.
“We always have lots of kids at the skating parties,” Bulls said. “Before anyone skates, we have a half hour of conflict and resolution role playing and then they skate.”
(For More information on the Northside Old Timers, visit http://www.northsideoldtimers.com,)
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