Vibrant Communities In Focus
Image Credit: Benjamin Rondel
Patricia Region, Ontario

To see a police officer as a friend, a mentor, someone who will help you: these are the goals of an innovative program dubbed Kids 'N' Kops. Developed in Newfoundland in 1998, the program is taking hold across Canada. The executive director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Patricia region, Judi Benham, is thrilled that a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation allows her to offer the program to a dozen children every year in Dryden, Sioux Lookout and Kenora. "The kids learn that cops aren't scary. Some come from homes where an abusive dad was taken away by a police officer. They have to learn to trust them again. The police are great with the kids. They laugh and horse around a bit, but they're also serious and kind and patient. They take the kids out on the patrol boat, and show them the canine and the bomb disposal units. We had one little guy who said, 'I'm going to be a police officer when I grow up!' "So many things are happening in our communities, with younger and younger kids getting into trouble. This program helps kids, reassures them on so many levels. It's priceless. They make friends, talk about their lives and realize there are lots of kids with similar problems and challenges. They graduate on the Friday afternoon with a great sense of optimism."