'Officer Friendly' program connects kids on South, West sides

A Chicago police officer has led the charge in revamping a program a lot of parents grew up with decades ago.

The project hopes to inspire, educate and bridge neighborhoods. It's called "Officer Friendly" and the 150 officers involved are hoping to make an impact on the south and west sides -- one kid at a time.

It's a tough job these officers have, trying to change the mindset of kids growing up in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods.

“A lot of the kids we we're talking to, they say ‘we don't talk to the police.’ But as we go into the schools they say ‘hey officer friendly! I know her, that's officer Friendly!’" said Officer Denise Gathings.

And around the city you'll find a number of officers like her. Together, they're a force that teaches life-saving lessons.

On Thursday, 300 kids and teachers from four schools mingled together at Mandrake Park, getting hands on instruction from police, firefighters and paramedics. The students were brought in from the South and West sides and there's a reason for that, too.

“I felt like if we work with them at a kindergarten age and bring them up in elementary school knowing each other, they'll say ‘how you doing?’ Or ‘let’s play ball.’ Instead of ‘whatchu doing in my neighborhood?’" Gathings said.

The “Officer Friendly” program works with kids from K through third grade. They'll go on to be involved in programs like DARE when they're a little older.

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