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The Journal Gazette

  • Aubree Reichel | The Journal Gazette Officer Jason Baker of the Allen County Sheriff’s Department shows SWAT equipment to youth at Jason Baker’s Pro Football Mini Camp on Saturday.

Sunday, May 15, 2016 9:07 am

Football camp goes beyond field

Aubree Reichel | The Journal Gazette

Eighth-grader Zaiwaun Gathright was found innocent, much to his enjoyment and relief in his group’s mock trial at the Allen County Justice Center on Saturday morning.

Jason Baker’s Pro Football Mini Camp spent the servant leadership portion of the camp learning about the justice system, cybersafety and security, and the police and sheriff departments.

"It was awesome," Gathright said. "This was the first and final time I’ll be in a courtroom. You’re not going to see me back here anytime soon."

The camp had 283 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders register.

The kids also learned about equipment the area’s SWAT team carries, the sheriff’s K-9 unit, the workings of the Fort Wayne Police Department’s SWAT tank and the squad cars and equipment police officers use and carry with them.

"We try to, every year, come up with a really good servant leadership opportunities in our area," said Baker, a Wayne graduate and former NFL punter for the Carolina Panthers. "We’re focused on local, state and national government and we were looking for different organizations around that and having conversations with some of the leaders like Judge (Wendy)Davis. They really were excited about doing it."

Baker has been doing a camp of some sort since 2004, starting with a punt, pass and kick and eventually evolving into the two-day servant leadership and football skills camp.

"When (the NFL’s junior player development program) went away, we were forced to either stop what we were doing or create our own version of it," Baker said. "We realized there was a really cool opportunity to create something that was unique to Fort Wayne based on the needs of the community and the kids here. That’s what we’re doing today and that’s what we do every year."

For Judge Davis, even though her position already gives back to the community by serving on the bench, being able to teach kids about what she does and how the courts work was a wonderful opportunity.

"Anybody that knows me in my community, I am a huge advocate of youth and youth ministry, youth mentoring," she said. "And I think this is a good opportunity to bring in the police department, sheriff’s department, court system, FBI, all here together, loving on these kids, teaching them what it’s like to serve your community.

"What I do for a living, I only preside over criminal cases. It makes me feel good that I can see all these kids with so much potential. … I want to give back to my community.

"I want to make sure Fort Wayne is the best city and (Allen County is)the best county. So, to do that, I’m willing to do whatever it takes, especially with youth."

The camp concludes today at Wayne.

areichel@jg.net