By Kevin O’Rourke
While all the other of Montgomery County school kids were home from school last Friday, a handful of boys and girls were at Kingsview Middle School in Germantown to participate in a unique program which brings at-risk kids together with members of the police department to have a day of fun.
The program is called Badges for Baseball and it is a part of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. The program was created in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice as a juvenile crime prevention initiative. It’s a simple concept: pair cops and kids together to play and learn.
The Montgomery County Police Department kicked off the program at Kingsview Middle School on Friday, with an all-day event which included underserved youths from throughout Montgomery County.
“The day is about teaching core values about leadership and teamwork, and having a really good time,” said District 5 Community Outreach Officer Marcus Dixon, at the fields on Friday. “It is about doing something positive, instead of something negative.”
The program will continue once a week at various areas around the county, where Officer Dixon will meet with the youngsters to cultivate a positive mentoring program.
Friday’s event included three sports stations where the children could play football, or Quickball, the Ripken Foundation’s faster version of baseball, which involves innovative concepts such as timed team at bats, rapid batter rotation and two-way scoring keep games moving. MCPD also brought along some motorcycles for the kids to see up close, as well as a member of Maryland-National Capital Park Police on horseback. The children even got to visit with MCPD Chief Thomas Manger.
“One of my kids asked me a couple of years ago, ‘Daddy, why is it that whenever people see the police it is always in a bad situation?’” said Dixon. “And it is often the case, many times the police are only there when something negative happens, and kids can often be afraid of the police. We are trying to do more community outreach. We are trying to have these kids see us in a more positive light. Just because we have guns and badges, we are human beings as well, so that these kids can see us more as role models instead of the big bad police officer coming only when something goes wrong.”
Brooke Austin, a program coordinator with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation said the program works to enhance the relationship between law enforcement and kids in underserved communities using baseball as the hook. “Law enforcement officers become the coaches, using team sports and the Ripken Foundation’s Healthy Choices, Healthy Children curriculum to teach important lessons about teamwork, communication, respect, and leadership that can be used both on and off the field.”
Dixon said the MCPD and the Ripken Foundation worked with a number of non-profit groups from throughout the county to identify children to participate in the program
Austin said the Montgomery County program was made possible due to the partnership with the MCPD and a grant from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.
Top: Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger talks to the children attending the Kick Off to MCPD District 5's Badges for Baseball program on Friday at Kingsview Middle School.
Next: MCPD Officer Marcus Dixon coaches Quickball during the Badges for Basebal kickoff event.
Photo credits: Top: Photo provided by the Cal Ripken Sr. Founation.
Next: Photos by Germantown Pulse.