FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Youth football players, between the sixth and eighth, spent Saturday learning about public safety and the work that goes into it. It was part of NFL veteran Jason Baker’s annual Pro Football Mini Camp.
Each year, children can participate in the two-day camp for free, but are required to participate in the included service project. This year’s project paired the youth with Fort Wayne Police and Fire Departments, along with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, and the American Red Cross.
“This gives them a start and a different way they can impact their community,” Baker, a former NFL punter and Fort Wayne native, said. “Each one of these kids is getting exposed to something I’m sure they didn’t do yesterday.”
Campers went through several stations on the day at the Public Safety Academy. A K-9 officer with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department demonstrated some basic commands with his attack dog. Fort Wayne Police officers were on hand to show off some robotics and how officers handle a hostage situation.
The American Red Cross had campers perform basic CPR instructions.
The Fort Wayne Fire Department put together an obstacle course for campers to run through, and showed them how to operate a fire hose.
“It’s all probably something they wouldn’t do if they were at home playing video games this morning,” Baker said. “Maybe down the road, this changes their mentality towards what they think when they see a police officer or a fireman. Maybe they say those people are serving us. That may be a really cool occupation.”
Those currently working in public safety enjoy working with children, and find the event a positive way to help encourage the campers to consider joining them in the future.
“Public safety exposure, or recruiting in a sense, is important because public safety is a calling and kids have to be interested and exposed to that calling early if they want commit to that in their life,” Sgt. Jon Bowers, a commander with the Fort Wayne Police Department’s negotiations team, said.
Fort Wayne police had a negotiations truck at the camp, and robots that are used for negotiations and defusing bombs.
“This is a terrific opportunity for us to interact with some kids in the community,” Amy Biggs, the Fort Wayne Fire Chief, said. “They’re seeing a different part of public safety. They may never experience something, and I hope they never do, but this is an opportunity for them to interact and learn more about it.”
In past years, campers have used the service leadership project to learn about jobs at the 122nd Fighter Wing, and spent a day working at the Community Harvest Food Bank.