Camp helps kids stay busy, off streets

December 27, 2010 (CHICAGO)

It's for young people who are involved in the system. The volunteers say it's a way to keep the kids off the street during the long school break and to provide some much needed mentoring.

When kids encounter officers of the juvenile courts, it's usually not on the friendliest terms.

But Monday was different.

In the spirit of giving, some Cook County probation officers were working to give some troubled youth some holiday happiness.

It's the thrill of the game that draws them in.

"I love the game of basketball, so I appreciate what they do for us," said 18-year-old Duwon Gaddis.

It's the discipline and camaraderie that makes them stay.

"It's helping us out on our fundamentals, good exercise and takes me off the street," said one youngster.

Many of these youngsters who have already had brushes with the law know that the long holiday break mixed with no structured activity could add up to more trouble.

"It's definitely helping me stay out of trouble by not going outside," said one young lady who has had trouble with the law in the past. "I never know what kind of trouble I could run into, so here is a better place."

This is the second annual Cook County Juvenile Court holiday dunk and dance camp.

Marcus Spencer is one of several probation officers who volunteer to organize it.

"During the holidays, we have kids pick up unnecessary charges saying they were bored and they just wanted to do something or try something," Spencer said. "Kids end up picking robbery cases or residential burglary, in my opinion, for no apparent reason in particular other than the fact that they weren't engaged in anything positive."

There will be an awards ceremony when the camp closes on Wednesday. Of course there will be trophies for the top athletes, but there will also be winners in categories like positive behavior, respect and leadership.

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