On June 4, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Police Athletic League commenced its fifth annual PBSO/PAL Tri-City 2018 Basketball, Academics and Mentoring Camp. The camp continues through Aug. 2.

It’s the most popular summer camp in the Tri-City area. With over 500 youth attending throughout its four years of existence, from ages 7 to 18, some have matriculated to the military, workforce or college, whether it be trade or vocational school.

We are dedicated to providing budding student athletes with the proper training and tools necessary to help improve their fundamental life skills, teamwork, offensive and defensive skills in a fun, safe and motivating environment. Glades Central High School has been our home for the past four years, and each age group has had only four hours of camp time.

Due to its increasing popularity, this year the camp is being held at two sites. We’ve added Lake Shore Middle School as an additional site in order to expand into a full day camp for both age groups of our youth.

The PBSO/PAL and Tri-City Basketball Camp has attracted youth from West Palm Beach, Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and even some from out of state.

Currently, we have a total of 277 youth registered and attending our camp. Our PBSO deputies are constant visitors at the camp sites. As soon as they enter the gymnasium, the youth give them a huge welcome by cheering and running toward them, seeking their attention. This is one of the most exciting times of their day.

We extend a special thank you Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, the PBSO/PAL supporters, Glades Central High School Principal Angela Moore and Assistant Principal William Durgin, Lake Shore Middle School Principal Dr. Carl Gibbons and Assistant Principal Bruce Hightower, the Palm Beach County School District, Wedgworth Farms, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Foundation, First Serve PAL, Chick-fil-A and In Jacobs Shoes. All of you make this experience possible for our youth and their parents, all of whom are very appreciative of your generous support and sponsorship of this program.

Deputies also participated in the 2018 Glades Tri-City Summer Camp in conjunction with Christ Fellowship Church. Approximately 900 young adults (campers) and over 100 Christ Fellowship staff members participated in this annual event from June 8 through June 16. Each morning, PBSO deputies met at Glades Day High School in Belle Glade to escort buses filled with campers to eight sports camps, which were located at Pioneer Park, Okeechobee Center, the Life Center, the Loading Ramp, St. John’s Baptist Church, Osceola Center, Fremd Village and Padgett Circle. The group also visited 12 work sites, which were located at the Alliance Church, the First Baptist Church, Pahokee Stadium, Pahokee High School, Pahokee Middle School, Glades Central, Belle Glade Elementary, Hands Park, the Belle Glade Library, Belle Glade City Hall and South Bay Head Start.

Deputies interacted with each of the groups, all the while proactively patrolling their designated sites in order to provide safety and security to all of the campers.

The campers participated in community outreach efforts by cleaning and sprucing up the various work site locations, playing games and interacting with the children of the community at the sports camps locations. Each afternoon, after the camp locations closed, several deputies escorted staff and campers to various area stores and laundry centers, where they continued their outreach to community members throughout the cities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay. At the conclusion of each day’s activities, PBSO deputies returned to each site to ensure no campers were left behind before escorting the buses back to Glades Day High School.

Finally, the Harmony in the Streets Camp has become one our area’s most anticipated and appreciated summer programs.

This camp offers both the community and our deputies the valuable opportunity of positive interaction, communication and connection on every level. The youth involved are able to view the deputies as real people who like to enjoy themselves and have fun, too. And it allows the deputies to observe and understand the dynamics of the families who participate; it puts personalities, habits and behaviors into the forefront and the deputy gains a new perspective of the community in which he or she serves. This builds lasting relationships, opens lines of communication and is an important step in bridging the gap between the community and those who serve in it.

The deputies who participate in this endeavor have openly expressed the pleasure they have experienced in being involved. From the first day of wary trepidation to the evolution of a relationship, they have been learning from and about each other through interaction and open, friendly communication. Validation and acceptance is both wanted and needed by everyone, and this program is the perfect avenue in which to achieve this.

The joy the youths express upon seeing the deputies each morning after spending just a few days with them is “one of the best parts of the day,” according to the deputies who have had the experience. What better reward for your efforts than the admiration of a child, an excited smile and a giant hug?