Three years after the Cook County Sheriff’s Office took over full-time policing duties in Ford Heights, children from that community are getting the opportunity to learn more about the world around them and the officers who serve and protect them on a daily basis.
Sheriff Dart’s Youth Camp kicks off this week with activities aimed at not only improving the minds and bodies of more than 50 kids ages 9 to 11, but also improving relations with those who usually only see sheriff’s staff associated with negative incidents.
“Building trust with a community is a key component to successful policing anywhere,” said Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart. “In this unique situation, we’re just starting relationships, so we want to be sure that both kids and parents know that they can trust us and that together, we can keep neighborhoods safe.”
Sheriff’s staff worked with the Housing Authority of Cook County to identify families for the camp. That allowed for expansion to neighboring HACC properties in Chicago Heights and Robbins, where sheriff’s police gang officers have a heavy presence.
The camp begins each day at Camp Sullivan in Oak Forest. Meals are provided by the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, while staff from the sheriff’s Department of Youth Services coordinate team-building exercises and creative activities.
The highlight of the camp, however, comes with each day’s field trip. Many campers say it’s the first time they’ve seen Lake Michigan or downtown Chicago.
On Friday, they will travel to Navy Pier, where they will take an architectural boat tour with Shoreline Cruises and then head to the Billy Goat Tavern for lunch – all of which has been graciously donated by the owners and operators of those businesses. The camp will also include a visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo, a Chicago Sky basketball game, Lynwood Skating Rink, Dolton Bowl and a Windy City Thunderbolts baseball game. They’ll also visit a 911 center, meet forensic officers, visit a fire station, tour local television and radio stations, visit the Anti-Cruelty Society and tour the Federal Reserve Bank. They’ll also learn healthy eating habits from nutritionists and hear about the plights of children across the globe, as they bundle meals for Aurora-based Feed My Starving Children.