Campout honors fallen Chicago police officer

September 3, 2010 8:38:55 PM PDT
While campers are having fun at a South Side park, they are also sending a message in memory of a slain Chicago police officer.

Dozens of people camped out in Nat King Cole Park on Chicago's South Side Friday night in honor of Thomas Wortham.

In May, Wortham was killed near the park during an attempted robbery.

He was working to help reclaim Cole Park from encroaching violence, but now that Wortham is gone, other residents of the neighborhood are carrying on his mission.

It's an outdoor adventure. A concert. A night in Cole Park.

The type of summer evening Officer Thomas Wortham envisioned as head of the park's advisory council.

"I know he is so pleased to see that there were people in the community who didn't give up and who have picked up the mantle and are continuing to make the neighborhood the kind of place where he grew up," said Officer Wortham's mother Carolyn.

Tonight is different than other nights. Instead of crime, there's a cookout and camping.

Officer Wortham's father, sister and mother welcome local children, making sure they understand tonight's message.

"The main reason that we're here - we want you to feel safe in this park," said Officer Wortham's father, Thomas.

Wortham's fellow officers and military brothers are here as well eaching out to the children.

"This place mattered to him...and he was my brother, so it matters to me," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Killam of the Wisconsin National Guard.

"It's important for these young men and women to see these officers as people, as part of the community, and not someone wearing a star or carrying a gun, but as people," said Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis.

With that, there is comfort for residents, knowing that on Friday night, they owned Cole Park.

"Tonight means the police are watching me, so I'll be safe," said Jonathan Pittman, 13. "I hope that it assures everyone else that they will be safe too."

An evening for Chatham adults and children to work together and reclaim Cole Park.

"I'm trying to just be up here and stay focused and be a positive role model for kids, that's all," said Chatham father Darnell Graham.

The night was a new experience for many of the children who had never slept in a tent before.

The Worthams advised young people to always do their best, just as their son did during his life of service.


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