WINCHESTER — When he saw a police officer approaching him on Thursday as he played soccer with a friend in his front yard, 11-year-old Juan Jimenez thought the officer was searching for someone.
He was looking for the boys. The officer gave them a flier about Friday’s second annual North End Summer Kickoff. The community policing event drew about 75 children, including Jimenez, to Frederick Douglass Park for basketball, cornhole, lawn bowling, pedal cars, soccer, food and music.
They also met police dogs Raff and Riggs and inspected a police cruiser and a fire engine from the Friendship Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co. Jimenez, who is entering sixth grade at Daniel Morgan Intermediate School, said he had a good time playing soccer and checking out the inside of the cruiser.
Chris Johnson Jr., who brought his 7-year-old daughter Janiyah and 10-year-old son Chris Johnson III, was also impressed. Johnson said it was a chance for his children, who rode pedal cars, to have a good time. And he liked the multicultural aspect of the event.
“That’s what it’s about. The youth, trying to get them to stay together and notice all the difference cultures,” Johnson said. “This is what the U.S. is all about.”
The idea for the event came from police spokeswoman Lt. Amanda Behan and Caitlin Squires, a city, fire and police department spokeswoman. Behan said the event took about a month to organize. The Frederick County/Winchester Law Enforcement Foundation solicited donations for the event and a local doctor’s office provided $500 for food and drinks. Officers also donated supplies.
Hood Love, a neighborhood improvement group, and the North End Citizens Association alerted residents about the event through Facebook posts. Participants included about 20 children from the Fremont Street Nursery.
Behan said holding the event in the North End was a way for the department to be more inclusive. The annual Kids and Cops Camp is held at Jim Barnett Park and other events such as Coloring with a Cop — in which police and children draw in coloring books — is done in the South End.
“We wanted to make sure we were covering all areas of the city,” Behan said, adding that Douglass Park is an ideal location. “We [also] wanted to make sure we were doing something to celebrate the end of school.”
Besides fun, the event is a way for police to connect with local children and their parents in an informal, relaxed setting.
“It gives them a break from their everyday duties out on patrol and have a positive interaction with them,” Behan said. “This is an opportunity for them to see us having fun and being ourselves.”