(CBS) — Seventy-five children are spending the night in Cole Park, in the South Side’s Chatham neighborhood, in an event organized with help from the family of murdered Chicago police officer Thomas Wortham IV.
The children range in age from 11 to 17. They come from across the South Side. Police and volunteers, some of them parents, say that by morning they will have played volleyball, shot baskets, climbed aboard a fire engine, ridden horses, feasted on burgers, hot dogs and pizza, made s’mores, watched a movie around a campfire and, of course, camped out in a tent.
Kimberly Buford is attending for the third year with her daughter Destini, and says camping out overnight “is something every child should have a chance to experience.”
Conspicuous among the volunteers are Chicago police officers, both from the Gresham District and from other units in which Wortham served.
Wortham had recently returned from combat duty in Iraq when he was murdered in 2010, in the driveway of his parents’ home, by thieves who sought to steal his new motorcycle.
One of the gunmen was killed and a second wounded moments later by Wortham’s father, a retired Chicago police sergeant. The three survivors have since been sentenced to life in prison.
When Officer Wortham was murdered, Cole Park saw little use and basketball nets had been taken down to reduce loitering by gangbangers over the protest of a local advisory council Officer Wortham chaired. Now, the block-square park has new hoops and a walking track, hosts South Side Little League games and has a playground, dedicated in the officer’s memory.
The sleepover activities were to conclude around 8 a.m. Saturday.