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‘Game On’-themed First Thursdays event highlights adaptive sports with games, art

Community members are pictured walking outside of the entrance for First Thursdays hosted by UCLA and the Westwood Village Improvement Association. The monthly event, themed “Game On” for March 2024, was founded in 2022 to connect students with the community. (Eva Danesh/Daily Bruin)

By Eva Danesh and Jonah Danesh

March 10, 2024 7:35 p.m.

With nearly a thousand Bruins and community members in attendance, March’s First Thursdays event livened up Broxton Avenue and Westwood Village with sports, art installations and food.

There was a persistent line at Beverly Estrada’s food cart, where she was selling hot Mexican tamales. Estrada said the event was successful at bringing the university and the wider community together.

“It brings the community and the students out of their studies for a little bit, to eat and just interact with everyone,” she added.

For this month’s theme, “Game On,” attendees enjoyed a range of activities, including being catapulted on a trampoline, watching the men’s basketball game against the University of Arizona, engaging in wheelchair basketball and playing esports games in the back of a truck.

Thursday’s event marked the two-year anniversary of the monthly series, which started March 2022 when UCLA joined forces with the Westwood Village Improvement Association to deepen connections between UCLA and the Village.

(Eva Danesh/Daily Bruin)
First Thursdays atendees line up at a booth hosted by La Canasta Taco Factory, one of several booths selling food on Broxton Avenue during the event. Vendors said during the event that by bringing the university and community together, the event can be deemed a success.(Eva Danesh/Daily Bruin)

Matthew Esarte, a fourth-year English student, said he has attended several previous First Thursday events, getting drawn in while walking through Westwood.

“It’s really cool,” he said. “Anybody walking by – just like me – can listen to music, get some food and check it out.”

Esarte said he hopes to see First Thursdays continue to grow and take advantage of more of Westwood.

[Related: Westwood celebrates community through inaugural First Thursdays event]

Attendees enjoyed taking photos in a mock Bruin spirit room and getting their faces painted. They also gathered to write postcards and use the new John Wooden stamp, which was unveiled March 1, to mail them out.

[Related: Coach John Wooden honored with Forever Stamp]

In anticipation of the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will take place in Los Angeles, attendees competed for prizes in trivia challenges about the games and their history in LA. According to Adaptive Sports LA’s website, LA28 and the International Olympic Committee have begun engaging with the LA community to support the city’s PlayLA Sports Program, which provides adaptive sports to children with physical limitations.

The program aims to remove barriers to participation in sports by providing free athletic programs at local recreational centers and community facilities around the LA area, said Erika Luna Diaz, the facility director of PlayLA. She added that the program offers inclusivity and accessibility for children who would otherwise be unable to participate in sports.

Pieces from the City of Irvine’s New Normal: Skateboarding Now exhibition were also displayed on Broxton Avenue featuring photos of a diverse group of professional skateboarders, including those who are blind and wheelchair bound, performing their unique styles and takes on the sport. The collection was curated by journalist Robert Brink and the Skateboarding Hall of Fame and Museum.

(Eva Danesh/Daily Bruin)
Pictured are attendees playing wheelchair basketball. Games were played throughout the night, led by PlayLA, which provides adaptive sports to children with physical limitations. PlayLA is partnered with LA28, which will bring the Olympic Games to Los Angeles in 2028. (Eva Danesh/Daily Bruin)

At the event, PlayLA also hosted wheelchair basketball games, run by players of the sport. Attendees had opportunities to move and shoot basketballs while in a wheelchair, revealing the challenges and fun that come with playing an adapted version of the well-known sport.

“We’re here to make sure everybody knows you can do whatever sport you put your mind to,” Diaz said.

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