Joliet — The Joliet Police Department’s Neighborhood Oriented Policing team received $1,500 this month from Walmart Joliet’s Spark Good grant program, which the department plans to use toward its National Night Out event.
“We want to use the funding to help engage with more people out in the community, especially kids,” said Lt. Robert Desiderio, who oversees the Neighborhood Oriented Policing program. “We haven’t fully decided how we will use the money, but we’d like to do something to attract families so the kids can engage with the officers in a positive way.”
The Joliet Police Department holds its National Night Out event every year on the first Tuesday in August at Memorial Stadium.
“Originally, National Night Out was just supposed to be individual events in the community to get to know your neighbors, but it’s evolved into more of a city block party festival, with youth events for people to talk about safety and connect with police to learn what we do on a daily basis,” Desiderio said.
During the event, the police provide free emergency IDs for children and host a number of kid-friendly activities including a touch-a-truck with police cars, inflatable jump houses and a “bike rodeo” that allows them to ride their bikes through a course after watching officers complete it.
At the end of the event, the department has raffled off bikes and helmets to participating kids, as well as Ring doorbells for adults.
“We want to increase the kid stuff, so the funds could go to providing more giveaways for things like the bikes,” Desiderio said.
He said that if all the funds are not used for the National Night Out event, some also might be allocated to the department’s PACT – or Police and Children Together – Camp. The program is an effort for police to interact with low-income children by taking them for a week of activities such as fishing, swimming, a ropes course, a cookout and an outing to Medieval Times.
“Those are two good programs the funding will go to help out with,” Desiderio said. “We’re very excited about it, and we want to give a big thank you to Walmart and to Lt. Andrew Jose, who applied for the grant on behalf of the department.”
Walmart’s Spark Good grant program is a national initiative that allows each Walmart store to issue grants from $250 to $5,000 to local community organizations on a quarterly basis based on the community’s needs.
In 2021, Walmart and Sam’s Clubs stores provided more than $45 million in grants to local organizations.