Finding interesting ways to give his money away
Phil Kadner email@example.com | (708) 633-6787 May 17, 2011 8:48PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Cook County sheriff’s police officer Terrence Camodeca is always finding interesting ways to give his money away.
Camodeca, of Orland Park, is not Bill Gates, so we’re not talking about millions of dollars here.
“I earned some extra money working overtime during the snowstorm this winter and was trying to figure out a way to spend it,” Camodeca told me.
Some folks might have flown to Las Vegas for a weekend, but that’s not Camodeca’s idea of fun.
Instead, he reached out to county Commissioner Deborah Sims (D-Chicago), who mentioned that due to rising gas prices some poorer school districts in the Southland were cutting back on field trips to places like the zoo.
So Camodeca ended up signing two $250 checks to pay for chartered buses for children at Medgar Evers School in Ford Heights and the Jones Memorial Community Center in Chicago Heights. Sims obtained tickets for the children through Brookfield Zoo, which is owned by the county.
But Camodeca said his biggest thrill was visiting with the children as he delivered those checks.
“It was Commissioner Sims’ idea and that turned out to be the best part of the entire thing,” Camodeca said. “I told the kids that when I was in school I wanted to be an astronaut, but I wasn’t very good at math. Fortunately, I had a teacher who helped me, but I was never good enough to accomplish my dream.
“These little kids looked at me and said, ‘You weren’t good at math, either?’ It was just a wonderful thing because I was able to explain to them that not everybody is smart at every subject and learning doesn’t always come easy. And although I couldn’t be an astronaut, I did get to become a law enforcement officer and that’s not too bad.”
Sims said Camodeca’s visit served two purposes.
“It not only gave him a chance to help these children, but it gave the children a chance to see a police officer is not a bad guy or someone to be frightened of,” she said.
In the past, Camodeca spent $500 in federal stimulus money he received to commission a painting of the county forest preserve district’s Swallow Cliff Preserve toboggan slide and toured schools with it so “children could see what it looked like before it was torn down.”
He offered $500 to send a Sandburg High School band member to Washington, D.C., for Barack Obama’s inaugural celebration after reading a story about how the band needed money to attend.
In 2002, when Camodeca received a $300 economic stimulus check from the federal government, he tried to give it to state Rep. Renee Kosel (R-New Lenox).
The state had just cut the budget for caring for the developmentally disabled, and Camodeca wanted to send the message that some people care more about people than money.
Kosel suggested that he donate the money to a private charity, while turning down Camodeca’s request to speak on the House floor and personally hand Speaker Michael Madigan the check to make his point.
“When he was talking to the children at the Jones Community Center, he told them a story about how, when he was little, he wanted a bike,” Sims said. “His father told him that if he would go out and mow lawns in the community, without charging anyone, he would buy him the bicycle. It was a lesson in doing for others that he never forgot.”
Camodeca said his most recent effort is just an attempt to reach out to children in poorer communities “who need to get out into the bigger world once in awhile.”
“The zoo seemed like a perfect place since the animals are interesting, there’s lots of room for children to walk around and burn off energy and you can learn things about strange places you have learned about only in books,” he said.
Too some people, Chicago Heights and Ford Heights are strange places, Camodeca noted.
“We pass by these places going 55 mph down the interstate,” he said. “They are like foreign countries and people often fear the unknown.
“People told me all sorts of terrible stories about Ford Heights. Well, the children there are children. I saw 60 kids there who were just excited about going to the zoo.”