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SHERIFF’S SUMMER CAMP PAIRING COPS AND KIDS COMES TO CLOSE

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Thursday, July 22, 2010— A first-of-its-kind summer camp aimed at building bonds between police and youths in the communities they serve will come to a close this week with public service projects, field trips and games for the campers, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Thursday.

Sheriff Dart’s Youth Camp began July 12 and will end on Friday. The camp, operated in partnership with the Housing Authority of Cook County, has been attended by about 50 kids, ranging in age from 9 to 11, who live in public housing developments in Ford Heights, Chicago Heights and Robbins – areas where the sheriff’s police have a regular presence.

Today’s activities will find the campers visiting Feed My Starving Children, an Aurora-based non-profit where they will learn about poverty in foreign countries, including Haiti, and how it impacts children there. They will then pack food and care packages for those kids.

On Friday, the final day of the camp, they’ll spend the day at Camp Sullivan at 147th Street and Oak Park Avenue in Oak Forest, where they’ll wrap up the two weeks of activities with sports competitions and team-building exercises, as well as a barbecue lunch.

Campers have already visited Navy Pier, taken a boat tour of Lake Michigan and visited the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Field Museum – with multiple children telling staffers it was their first time seeing the lake, visiting a museum or even seeing the Willis Tower.

“The camp exceeded all of our expectations about the kind of impact it could have on the lives of these kids,” Dart said. “Beyond building relationships with our office, we’ve been able to expose the kids to things they had heard about, but never seen before - truly providing a lasting, meaningful and positive impact in their lives they’ll always remember.”

Campers have learned about healthy eating habits, had positive interactions with dogs in a discussion about dogfighting and a lesson in science, thanks to forensics investigators.

The idea for the camp came as the Cook County Sheriff’s Office began its second year as the only police presence in Ford Heights. Sheriff Dart recognized the need for community involvement by the office and the need for building bridges of trust between young residents and police. Outreach to the HACC, which has properties in Ford Heights, led to the expansion of the camp to include children from Chicago Heights and Robbins.

Though the office has operated summer camps in the past, this was the first to specifically target children from Ford Heights and other suburbs where the sheriff’s police gang, narcotics and patrol officers regularly work and interact with public housing residents.

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