City departments don’t always get the chance to get to know one another. A fun, unique event this week is changing that for Mansfield Water Utilities and the Mansfield Police Department.
It’s called the H2Olympics, and although it is meant to be a team building event between the two departments, the idea came from a much deeper place.
Following the events of July 7 this summer, when five Dallas Police Officers were tragically killed, public education specialist, Stephanie Zavala, felt helpless.
“We attended the funeral for Patrick Zamarripa. You could donate to the family. It just didn’t feel like enough. I wanted to do more,” explains Zavala. “I wanted to do something, in their names, that brought people together. Their families and friends all told the world how much they loved life and loved what they did. I wanted us to come together, have fun, and learn from each other in their honor.”
Stephanie and Arianne Shipley, also a public education specialist with the city, brainstormed the idea and met with Mansfield Police Chief, Tracy Aaron.
“Chief Aaron was on board from the very beginning. He has been so great to work with and really fun to brainstorm with,” Shipley said. “He tied in the “walk a mile in my shoes” theme which really pulled everything together.”
Mansfield City Manager Clayton Chandler had previously created a “walk a mile in my shoes” campaign internally, meant to create greater understanding between city departments and H2Olympics truly adopts this theme. The PD team will be facing off against one another while performing typical water utilities activities, such as repairing a main break, tapping a new service line and repairing a fire hydrant. The water utilities department will experience some of the training police officers go through to be prepared such as the obstacle course, the simulator and even an active shooter drill.
“I liked the idea from the beginning. I tell my officers to get out of the car and get out in the community. That personal touch is what really builds connection,” said Chief Aaron. “This is the same thing, but internally. It’s just as important for us to build a strong internal community. That only further enables us to serve our community better.”
Water Utilities Director Jeff Price agreed. “You know, no one except for us truly understands what we do day to day. I thought Stephanie and Arianne found a really creative way to educate the public on what we do, while also allowing us to build a closer relationship with another department. We bump into PD on different projects all the time so this helps them understand what we are working with. It also helps the training our guys receive because they’ll be instructing others on what to do.”
Each two-person team will have a coach from the other department. Each coach will only be allowed 60 seconds of instruction and are not allowed to physically assist their team during the competition, which could prove challenging.
“Our departments have work to do regardless of the elements, so the nice weather won’t allow for us to simulate that challenge, but it will allow us to enjoy being out there more,” Shipley said.
The event also includes an Olympic-style torch and flag. The flag will bear the H2Olympics logo as well as the badge numbers of the five fallen Dallas Police Officers.
“We really put a lot of thought into this event, into every detail, even the music,” said Zavala. “An event isn’t an event to me without music and DJ Turo was the obvious choice.”
DJ Turo is the stage name for Dallas Police Officer Arturo Martinez, who is a dj when he is not serving the Dallas community as a police officer. Officer Martinez was a close friend of Patrick Zamarripa, and his personal recounts of July 7 and his friendship with Zamarripa were what drove Zavala to act.
“All of the comments from friends and family really brought the character of those five men to life, but I think it was knowing Laura Zamarripa and hearing Arturo’s comments that really drove it home for me,” Zavala said. “It pushed me from having sympathy for the families to wanting to do something. Anything. I believe our actions and our character here on earth, when we emulate people we have lost, keeps their memories alive. They live on through us.”
H2Olympics, in true Olympic fashion, will have a brief opening ceremony and torch lighting at 1:30 p.m. on Wed, Sept. 28 before the event kick off. Water Utilities will take on the police challenge at 2 p.m. on Thurs, Sept 29. The games will come to an end at a luncheon for participants on Friday, Sept 30 complete with medals and a closing ceremony. For this inaugural year, H2Olympics is for staff only and is not a public event however you can follow the event by liking the City of Mansfield Facebook page.