Building trust and inspiring future generations
Over the past few decades, children across America have become disconnected from the first responders who serve them. They do not realize just how important these brave men and women are to their communities—that they are, in fact, the real-life heroes among us. There are many reasons for this disconnect, but the need to forge strong ties and educate community youth has become more important than ever to the safety and vitality of our towns and cities.
Connecting youth and first responders
Our community programs help forge lasting relationships that build trust and inspire futures. Through community activation events, we help illuminate the invaluable role first responders play in our society. These events showcase the dedication, sacrifice and bravery that goes into keeping our communities safe—so kids see first responders for the heroes they truly are. They lay the groundwork for building unbreakable bonds and fostering a sense of unity in our communities.
Junior First Responder Camps. We have officially named camps hosted by first responder agencies that we fund through grants as Junior First Responder Camps to reflect the full range of activities and skills children learn. These camps give kids a crash course in being a real-life hero— and teach them many of the skills firefighters, EMTs and police officers use every day. Children get to experience a firsthand account of what it’s like to walk in a first responder’s boots, from teambuilding adventures to STEM exercises. In addition to strengthening bonds between first responders and children in their community, the camps also provide an opportunity for agencies to inspire future generations to consider a career serving others.
Youth development. We also support youth development initiatives that build trust between law enforcement and children with a focus on underserved areas. We provide sports equipment for community gymnasiums, giving police officers the chance to build bonds with kids shooting hoops or playing catch.
It’s all about helping officers meet children where they are. In the recent past we have funded some unique experiences, such as a music program with cops and kids that evolved to become the First Responders Children’s Foundation Chorus and “fishing on the high seas” excursions with law enforcement and kids in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
In 2022, children attended four Junior First Responder Camps, and we funded nine Community Engagement grants in support of youth development to agencies nationwide.
We also launched a separate holiday gifting initiative for children who lost a first responder parent in the line of duty, reflecting the need to honor those families with a more personal approach. Working hand in hand with local agencies, we select toys for each child and arrange delivery directly to their home. Over 360 first responder families received gifts under this initiative, reaching a total of 1,083 children. These boxes are customized with age and gender specific toys, sports equipment, books, STEAM activities, clothing and electronics for children from age 0-18 years.
Our Toy Express program—now in its third year—helps first responders spread joy to children in need during the holiday season. We team up with first responder agencies across the country to distribute toys to families at hospitals, fire halls, police stations and community spaces in hundreds of cities across the country. It’s a time where everyone in the community shares in the spirit of the holidays—not just the children, but also the first responders who get to witness the happiness they bring.
In 2022, our signature Toy Express community toy distribution events reached over 100,000 children. More than 100,000 toys were distributed to 51,500 families in over 200 communities across the country. An estimated 2,000 first responders across the country participated in Toy Express—an average of 10 first responders attending each event.