When 12-year-old Dominic Pappalardo found an old rowboat that had been thrown away, his big brother asked if he could try his hand at restoring the vessel.
Joey Pappalardo, 15, figured why not. He already had experience building a boat as a participant in Summerfest, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s annual summer youth activities program.
“Joey’s refurbishing it, fiberglassing it; he’s making it like new because of what he learned,” said Kim Pappalardo, the boys’ mother.
Joey also fixed a hole in the sail of a friend’s sailboat, thanks to the skills he learned in the Build-A-Boat program, where he helped construct a Bevin's Skiff rowboat and earned a boaters safety certificate, as part of last year’s Summerfest.
“He wouldn’t have done any of it without (Summerfest),” Pappalardo said. “No way.”
Joey is just one example of how Summerfest is making a positive difference in the lives of kids and teens across Collier County. Thousands of students have participated in the free program since its launch by Sheriff Kevin Rambosk in 2010, making it the most ambitious and successful summer youth activities program in CCSO history.
The program will return for its sixth consecutive year, starting in June. Summerfest 2015 promises to deliver an even wider range of fun activities for all grade levels in a safe environment chaperoned by deputies at various locations around Collier County.
New this year will be a human foosball table and shed-building activities, along with Summerfest staples like fishing, swimming, boat building, chair building, day camps, and sports.
CCSO depends on its community partnerships with Collier County Parks and Recreation, the Collier County School District and more than 200 area businesses and individuals for donations to support the program.
Once again, CCSO Youth Relations deputies will be assigned to the summer youth program instead of patrol duties. This reallocation allows CCSO to expand its summer youth offerings without additional cost to the community.
The program continues to evolve every year, allowing more and more youth of all ages and from all ends of the county to participate. Deputies made more than 55,000 youth contacts during Summerfest last year and they are anticipating even greater success this summer as the program continues to gain momentum.
Sheriff Rambosk believes that youth programs pay off in the short term by keeping children and teens involved in fun and safe activities, and in the long term as well, by fostering the development of positive decision-making skills.
“The more we can help our children and teenagers stay involved in fun activities in a safe environment, the better off we are as a community,” Sheriff Rambosk said.
One of the region’s biggest employers is also one of Summerfest’s greatest supporters.
“We are proud to support the Collier County Sherriff Office’s Summerfest, as the program aligns well with Arthrex’s overall commitment to the health and well-being of our community,” said Lisa Gardiner, Arthrex spokeswoman and a member of the Arthrex Charitable Committee. “Arthrex’s commitment to Making People Better extends to our next generation and these rewarding experiences will create lasting memories for many children who may not have otherwise had these opportunities.”
Jordan Wolf, 19, said her experience as a Summerfest volunteer was instrumental in her decision to major in elementary education at Florida Southwestern University, where she will be a sophomore in the fall.
She enjoyed working with kids while earning volunteer hours when she was a student at Palmetto Ridge High School in Golden Gate Estates. But it was the interaction between the deputies and the kids that made a lasting impression and helped her decide on a future career as a kindergarten teacher.
“I saw the impact the deputies had on the kids and how the kids looked up to them,” said Jordan.
She enjoyed the experience so much that she came back as a volunteer after she graduated high school and no longer need volunteer hours.
“It’s a great investment of my time and will pay off in the future,” said Jordan.
As a single parent, Pappalardo, who works as a bookkeeper at Golden Gate Middle School, likes that Summerfest is free and will keep her children busy while school is out. Joey, a ninth-grader at Barron Collier High School, is signed up for the Build-A-Shed program this summer, while Dominic, a seventh-grader at Pine Ridge Middle School, will be participating in his first Summerfest in the Build-A-Boat program and fishing camp.
Summerfest, she said, is more than fun and games for kids.
“It gives them tools for life afterward and respect for police officers,” she said. “It does quite a bit, actually.”
Liliana Cardona said her daughter Ashley, 14, will be returning for a second year as a Summerfest volunteer. As a parent, she said she likes the program because it offers ample supervision and is well organized.
“She had a blast,” Cardona said of her daughter. “Every day was something different. To me, it’s so positive.”
Youth Relations Cpl. Damon Schloendorn is assigned to Palmetto Ridge High during the school year and most of his time is spent investigating criminal matters. He has been involved in Summerfest from the beginning, mostly with Teen Academy and Deputy Club.
“This gives us a chance to experience the happier side of law enforcement,” Cpl. Schloendorn said. “I go to work and get paid to play with kids. It’s such a blessing.”
The program offers kids a better understanding of what a deputy does on the job, while promoting positive interaction between young people and law enforcement, he said.
“That interaction humanizes us,” Cpl. Schloendorn said. “They see you as a person rather than just a badge.”
Summerfest is all about the kids, but the program wouldn’t be possible without community sponsors.
“Our partnerships are essential to the success of the Summerfest program,” Sheriff Rambosk said.
Leo Jr. Lawn & Irrigation has been a Summerfest partner for the past three years. Owner Michelle Herrera said one of the reasons her business supports Summerfest is because it helps build character and self-esteem in kids through programs such as Build-A-Boat and Build-A-Chair.
“I feel strongly about it; we all do,” Herrera said.
Some community sponsors also have children in the program.
Jim and Odalys Odom, owners of Olde Naples Self Storage, have donated storage space to Summerfest for several years. Their son Anden, 11, has been a Summerfest participant since he was 8.
“It’s a very worthwhile program,” Jim Odom said. “It does a lot for kids.”
Brothers Adam and Erik Johnson own Peluso United Inc. They’ve been picking up, storing and delivering all of the donated bottled water for the program for the past four years.
Adam Johnson said his 9-year-old son Braden is a three-year Summerfest veteran, attending Deputy Club each year, while his 7-year-old son Casey will be participating for the first time this summer.
He said Casey, who is signed up for Deputy Club, is excited to experience many of the activities his older brother had like trips to the movies and water park and demonstrations by the CCSO bomb squad and fire department.
“It’s cool for us parents because we know they are in good hands all day long,” said Adam Johnson.
Click on the link for the complete schedule of Summerfest events: http://www.colliersheriff.org/index.aspx?page=3027