"I wanted to give them a safe place" – Chicago cop takes youngsters camping to avoid gun violence over holiday weekend

Closeup man hitting a metal tent peg by a hammer into the ground
This is the fourth year that the district has organized the camping trip to protect young residents from the historically deadly weekend (Image credit: Kiyoshi Hijiki)

Memorial Day weekend has historically marked the unofficial start to camping season, signaling the time for many Americans to pack up their best tents and sleeping bags and enjoy the great outdoors. For many youths living in inner city Chicago, however, the weekend presents an uptick in gun violence. That's why one Chicago police officer took a group of youngsters camping over the weekend to help keep them safe.

According to reporting by ABC news, the holiday weekend incurred at least 41 shootings in the city. In anticipation of the violence, Officer Will Martinez with the Chicago Police Department’s 15th district loaded up a 15-passenger van with gear, food and young residents of the Austin neighborhood and drove two hours out of the city to pitch up and enjoy some peace.

“As long as they put in the work in building up their community, I wanted to give them a safe place," Martinez tells 14 News Chicago.

"So we take them from here, uproot them, give them a safe place. It’s a gated camping ground. They can roam around."

This is the fourth year that the district has organized the trip with the aim of getting children and teenagers out of harm's way over a violent weekend. Though the youths have now returned to the city, time spent in nature has the capacity to give them benefits that will last beyond the weekend.

As we've previously reported, between 200 and 300 minutes a week in nature is believed to be optimal to deliver the health benefits associated with time spent outdoors, which include lower levels of stress, depression and anxiety and increased vitamin D, melatonin and endorphin levels. 

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.