Saturday, September 4, 2010

Residents reclaim park with overnight campout

Chicago police Officer Thomas Wortham IV would have liked what took place at Nat King Cole Park in his old South Side neighborhood Friday night.

As the skies darkened, dozens of children, community leaders, and Chicago police officers gathered to set up tents and fire up grills before settling in for the night. The overnight campout, dubbed "Peace in the Park After Dark," represented a step toward Wortham's goal of reclaiming the park from growing violence in the community.

"He would be happy, he would be smiling," said Wortham's father, Thomas, as he surveyed the scene. "He wanted this park to be a safe haven for people in the community."

Two springtime shootings at the South Side park shook the sense of security long enjoyed by area residents. Then in May, Wortham, who had been head of the park's advisory board, was shot outside his family home, just across from the park, by robbers who were trying to take his new motorcycle.

In recent years, the park had ceased to be a gathering place for many community residents. Wortham's father said that at night, the park typically sees little activity, just a few people taking a walk or a handful of teenagers playing basketball.

But on Friday evening, the park was alive with activity as children dashed about, eating hot dogs and hamburgers, while adults set up games and chatted.

"This is a way for (kids) to see police officers just as people," said police Supt. Jody Weis, who was on hand early Friday evening but didn't plan to spend the night. "These types of events... break down a lot of those barriers that unfortunately exist when they shouldn't."

The campout was organized by the Chicago Police Gresham District and community leaders including Ald. Freddrenna Lyle, 6th, who planned to be among the 100 or so overnight campers.

"I don't really see police together like this, just hanging out," said Joseph Dean, 14, a freshman at Harlan High School. "It's kind of cool."

Wortham's mother Carolyn said that the campout was a testament to everything her son worked for.

"I firmly believe he is looking down on this and he is having the time of his life," she said. "This is what he was working toward. This is what he wanted to happen."

In the Park After Dark Total Success
In honor of our fallen chathamnite Tom Wortham iv the Wisconsin Army
which Tom served two tours, The Chicago Police dept.6th
district,Commander Eddie Johnson, Supt.J.Weis, Deput.J. Jackson,SGT.D.
Betts,Judge C. Walker, Rev. K. Dean, Fr. Pfleger, R. Holt, G. Brooks of
Caps, L. Millan Chicago Park District and Alderman F. Lyle were all present
and most importantly many youth from throughout the community which assured
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1 comment:

RossT said...

Who is the lady in the last 3 pictures standing with it seems Thomas Wortham Senior?