(WSVN) - There is a summer camp in South Florida that tries to bridge the gap between police and the children in the communities they serve, and for one former camper, it led to so much more. The Nightteam’s Karen Hensel has this special assignment report: Camp Connection.
Miramar Police Officer Chad Smith: “I’m officer Chad Smith. I’ve been with the Miramar Police Department for three and a half years.”
The story of Officer Chad Smith doesn’t begin here in his patrol car or even here at the table talking with veteran Miramar Police Officer Scott Hadley.
It began here as a child growing up in Miramar. One of three boys with working parents, his dad signed the brothers up for a unique summer camp.
Chad Smith: “It was a busy time for the both of them and nobody who could watch us, so they decided to put us in summer camp.”
The summer camp was “Hangin’ with 5-0,” where police officers organize and chaperone field trips, play sports and have pizza parties.
The officers, typically school resource officers, mentor and bond with the campers. Sometimes, it’s a bond that lasts a lifetime.
Officer Scott Hadley, Executive Director: “Chad was one of our kids he came through our camp.”
Chad was just 9 years old when he met Officer Hadley on the first day of camp in 2005.
Chad Smith: “My parents raised me, absolutely. They instilled me with good morals and values, but without having a Scott Hadley or Doug Lockhart or any of those guys, I don’t think I’d be where I am. They helped make me who I am today.”
Monday, “Hangin’ with 5-0” starts its 20th year. The summer camp is sponsored by the Ansin Foundation, the charitable arm of the Ansin family, the owners of Channel 7.
Scott Hadley: “We go to our city pool. We do an air boat ride at Holiday Park. We’ve had kids in the past years tell us that they’ve never been to the beach before, and we’re in Miramar. We’re 7 miles from the beach.”
Every trip, every conversation bridges the gap between police and at-risk youth.
Scott Hadley: “Sometimes in their neighborhoods, all they think about officers is being bad. Our goal is to change that thought process.”
A lot of Hangin’ with 5-0 is to show the kids that police officers are people, too, that they’re moms and dads, and a young, 9-year-old Chad remembers the exact moment that realization hit.”
Chad Smith: “One day, we went to one of the officer’s house, and we were just being kids in the swimming pool having a good time, barbecue on the grill. It was that day. I’ll never forget it. I knew for sure, and it was evident that they’re people under the uniform, people with families.”
The program is for students ages 9 to 13.
Chad spent three summers at the camp and still remembers the fun but also a little tough love.
Chad Smith: “I probably did something stupid and childish maybe once, and Scott Hadley had to get on my case, but I think that was the only time, and I’ll never forget it.”
Hangin’ with 5-0 allows campers to get to know the officers they will then see at school in the fall.
Scott Hadley: “It gives them sort of a comfortable situation that a kid can come up to a police officer in a full uniform and feel comfortable enough to tell them a story or ‘Hey, listen, this is what happened over the weekend.'”
For Chad Smith, it was more than life changing. It was career making.
Chad Smith: “It was actually going to Hangin’ with 5-0 that made me want to be a police officer. Being introduced to it, having interactions with my SRO at the time, it kinda sparked that. I knew I wanted to get into this field particularly and give back.”
Karen Hensel: “Do you want to be a Scott Hadley to someone?”
Chad Smith: “I do, I do. That’s why I’m here. I want to give back to my community, to the community that invested a lot in me.”
Students are chosen to participant in the Miramar summer camp by school resource officers and school counselors.
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