Two of the keys to keeping kids on the right path are preventing them from getting bored and making sure there are positive influences in their lives.
That’s why the Collier County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the community to launch “Have A Ball This Summer!”
Throughout the summer, the trunks of many marked patrol cars will contain a basketball, a football and a soccer ball. If a deputy is between calls and spots kids congregating, he or she will stop, take out a ball and toss it around with them while getting to know them. At the end of the informal encounter the deputy will leave the ball with the kids as a memento.
And here’s where the community comes in. The Sheriff’s Office has purchased several dozen balls to get the program started. To keep it going, boxes have been placed in each of the agency’s substations throughout the county. Members of the community are invited to drop off their gently used sports balls such as basketballs, footballs, soccer balls and volleyballs for the program.
“This is a grassroots, community-based program that builds relationships between kids and deputies and leaves kids with not only a positive impression of law enforcement officers, but an activity that will keep them occupied in a positive activity,” said Sheriff Kevin J. Rambosk.
The idea for “Have A Ball This Summer!” was sparked earlier this month, when Golden Gate Cpl. Joseph Amorosi spotted a group of about a dozen kids playing football with a tattered ball on a grassy area next to Peach Plum Apartments on Sunshine Boulevard. He got out of his car, joined the game for a few minutes and left. Later that day he bought a new ball and stowed it away in his patrol car.
“The ball they were playing with was all ripped up. The leather was falling off, the rubber was sticking out and you couldn’t even throw it straight anymore,” Amorosi said. “I just thought it would be nice to give them a new ball. I thought it would be a good way to get to know them and show them that deputies care about them.”
The next time he saw the kids, who ranged in age from about 5 to 11, he got out of his car, grabbed the new ball and played with them for a few minutes. To their surprise, he handed the ball over to them when he left.
“That was cool,” recalled 8-year-old McCline St. Tulus, who plays halfback. “Everybody was having fun. Everybody said thank you.”
Rambosk said Amorosi’s gift was more than an act of kindness. It promoted a positive bond between law enforcement and the area’s youth.
“This is exactly of the type of informal, spontaneous interaction between deputies and children that helps build positive relationships,” Rambosk said.
Members of the community may drop off their gently used sports balls between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at any of the following locations:
North Naples substation, District 1
776 Vanderbilt Beach Road
Naples, FL 34108-8707
Golden Gate substation, District 2
4707 Golden Gate Parkway
Naples, FL 34116-6901
East Naples substation, District 3
8075 Lely Cultural Parkway
Naples, FL 34113
Golden Gate Estates substation, District 4
1195 Oil Well Road
Naples, FL 34120
Everglades City substation, District 7
32020 Tamiami Trail E.
Ochopee, FL 34141
Immokalee substation, District 8
112 S. First St.
Immokalee, FL 34142-3900