Martino: Kudos to the Gardens’ Police Department!

Police Departments around the country have been front page news of late. Our local County and City departments have not been excluded. As first responders to our health and safety issues they deserve our respect and the benefit of our doubts. Most carry out their job responsibilities above and beyond the call of duty. A rare few do not.

During the week of July 11-16 I was exposed to still another side of policing that gets little to no attention, recognition, notoriety, or too often not even a thank you. I was witness to a public service that our Palm Beach Gardens Police Department performs but does not get enough recognition for, its interest and work with the youth of our community.

My 12-year old grandson, Oliver Jones, participated in a basketball camp at the Palm Beach Gardens High School Gym sponsored and hosted by the Gardens’ Police Department. Basketball is my favorite sport so I attended the 5 afternoon sessions of the camp to watch and encourage Oliver.

The basketball portion of the camp to my pleasant surprise was fantastic. There were approximately 100 boys and girls of all nationalities, skin color, and backgrounds. It featured two former NBA All-Star players, Michael Ray Richardson and Otis Birdsong, as the “coaches”. These two men represent and lead an organization known as Ball Stars Youth Camp. The camp is a free summer program whose goal is to help deserving youth reach their potential. They stress the importance of fundamentals, teamwork, sportsmanship, and leadership as part of the skill set necessary for success on the basketball court and also in everyday life. To highlight the life lessons needed for success off the basketball court prominent local business and community leaders are invited to address the kids and share their life experiences. Subjects addressed at the Gardens’ camp by the speakers as they relate to teenagers included, Social Media and the Internet, Drug Prevention and Education, Law Enforcement and Community Involvement, and how to relate with the police when a special situation occurs.

All in all, what a wonderful week of basketball and life lessons was presented to the basketball campers. A special thank you and recognition are in order for Assistant Chief Jim Stormes, Sergeants Dorian Hawkins and Randal Anderson, Officers Orlando Elcock, Darrin Walker, Jason Sharon, and Robert Ayala who were assigned the duty to make this camp the tremendous success that it was. The other members of the Police Department, and in particular Chief Stephen Stepp for his leadership, are to also be congratulated for their daily Community Service to the residents of Palm Beach Gardens.

Once again the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, in its own inimitable way, has reminded me why I am proud to be a Palm Beach Gardens’ resident. Thank you.

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