The Madera Police Department has started its first annual Mad-Kids Summer Camp.
The event, which started Tuesday morning at the John W. Wells Youth Center at 701 E. 5th St., is a week-long program for 4th and 5th grade students to exercise with, and learn more about, the police.
In total, 50 children signed up to take part in the camp, engaging in soccer on the first day, and are scheduled to to play basketball, football, and run an obstacle course as the week goes on. Along with sports, they are also provided with lessons on such police values as respect, teamwork, and compassion.
“We wanted to do something, some way to connect with the kids outside of the school, in a more interactive, fun way,” Madera Police Lt. Gino Chiramonte said during a break from playing soccer with the students.
Chiramonte, himself, has two children, one of them being in the same age group as the camp-goers.
The event was organized by Officer Brett Prieto, who is the director of the camp, and wanted to find a way to reach out to some of the younger members of the Madera community.
“That’s the big thing. It’s really connecting with these kids, and interacting with them, and to make sure that they had something to do this summer, something that would get them off the streets, and get them to interact with us, and know that we’re their friends, and they can easily come up to us if they are having problems, or there’s something going on,” Prieto said. “It’s building that partnership that we want to do.”
According to Prieto, these efforts are paying off.
“Right off the bat, they’re a little hesitant, because I don’t think they knew what they were getting into,” said Prieto. “But once they got into it, we broke that barrier.”
“It’s been fun,” said Sabrina Cerillos, a participant in the camp who will be starting the 5th grade. “They seem really nice and friendly.”
The Mad-Kids Summer Camp, in addition to the efforts of the Madera Police, also had help by more than 40 sponsors, who provided pallets of bottled water, two meals a day, and other donations.
“This isn’t just a law enforcement event, because the community chipped in,” Chiramonte said. “They’re the actual backers; we’re just the ones who get to enjoy the fun with the kids.”
The camp will continue until Friday afternoon.