Several dozen kids will camp out in Nat King Cole Park Friday night to honor a slain Chicago police officer who was on the park's advisory council and to reclaim their neighborhood as one that stands against crime and violence.
After two shootings on the park's basketball courts within a month earlier this year, officials ordered the basketball rims at Cole Park locked or removed. Suddenly a place created to encourage community and recreation became isolated and abandoned.
But Officer Thomas Wortham IV. was trying to change that. He was working hard to restore the park at 85th and King Drive as a place the community could enjoy.
And then he became of victim of violence.
Just a block away from the park he'd grown up near, Wortham was killed in May during a shoot-out with four people. Police say they were trying to steal his motorcycle.
Friday's campout in the Chatham neighborhood will continue the work of which Wortham was such a crucial part.
"I think it's important that we continue some of those ideas that he had, just to show people that his death wasn't in vain and we're going to continue to work to keep this community safe," said police Cmdr. Eddie Johnson.
Children will enjoy marshmallow roasting, volleyball and a pizza party. And the rims have been replaced, so they can enjoy a game up basketball, too.
"The concept is to teach kids that you can have fun in park. That's what this park is here for. It's to show the neighborhood that this park is a safe park," said Thomas Wortham III.
Wortham IV was a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and members of his guard unit are among the campers, sharing in the solidarity.
"I know he is loving it . He is looking down on this and loving it," said Wortham IV's mother, Carolyn.
Ald. Lyle said she hopes the community will make the event a tradition and said she'd like to see similar events in other communities.