Sheriff O’Sullivan’s Program a Training Ground for Future Leaders
By JOHN DOWNS, SR.
Where do they come from…those valiant soldiers risking their lives on the battlefields of Afghanistan, brave firefighters charging into a burning building, fearless police officers chasing a burglar into a dark alley, or even a politician taking a principled stand on an unpopular issue? The truth is they come from all walks of life. One might be the son of a car salesman, another the daughter of an accountant. Yet during their childhood almost every one of them developed two very important qualities: character and values. If a child is fortunate, he might learn these virtues at home, at his place of worship, or from a concerned school teacher. But in today’s world of latch-key children, 24 hour a day cable television, and questionable movies and music at every turn, the character of our nation’s youth is under assault constantly. Even the most conscientious of parents need every assistance possible as they strive to equip their children with core values. To that end, Chesapeake Sheriff Jim O’Sullivan has established a special charitable organization. It’s called Children Today, Leaders Tomorrow.
Under the umbrella of CTLT, 64 young men ages 10 through 13 have been selected to participate in S.T.A.R., an acronym signifying Standing Tall Always Reaching. “It’s a highly structured program,” Sheriff O’Sullivan explains, “that works to instill the core values of leadership, professionalism, and community involvement. The participants are broken down into eight groups with eight members each. They are all paired with specially selected adult mentors who are sworn Sheriff’s Deputies and have consistently exhibited the values and qualities we hope to instill.”
These young leaders of tomorrow are exposed to a number of positive activities promoting selflessness and dedication to the community. On any given day of the month, they might visit a nursing home with their adult mentors and provide companionship and entertainment for the senior residents. There are always a number of yards of handicapped individuals where the grass needs cutting and the hedges need trimming. And several Feed the Homeless projects depend on the volunteerism of these caring young citizens. If there is a need in our community, there is a very good chance that the S.T.A.R. participants will be there lending their talents and elbow grease.
It’s not all work for these outstanding young men. The Program also sponsors educational field trips and special nights at a number of college and professional sporting events. Come this December, S.T.A.R. will decorate a float and participate in Chesapeake’s annual Christmas parade. Under the umbrella CTLT, there are numerous ways for members to make our community a better place to live including an anti-bullying program called Be A Buddy, Not A Bully, and the Adopt-a Grand-buddy program. Two additional events which CTLT sponsors are also their most popular. The first is the annual summer football camp where local high school and college coaches and former professional players volunteer their time to teach the fundamentals of the game to Chesapeake youth. The other is the annual Leadership Camp which is a fun-filled weekend with all types of outdoor activities like swimming, rock climbing, and archery to name a few. This year’s camp is the 4th annual version and, as in past camps, it’s held at the Triple R Ranch on Bunch O’ Walnuts Road in Chesapeake.
“The guys have a great time,” O’Sullivan says, “There’s no doubt about that. But they also learn valuable lessons which will serve them well their entire lives. We had one child this year who was scared to death of horses. But he learned to meet his fears head on. Not only did he learn to ride, but by the end of the camp it was hard to get him off his horse. One of the mottos we use is ‘There’s no rear view mirror in life’; He learned that lesson well and he’s a better person for it.”
Another camper, Tanner Pittman, wasn’t sure if he wanted to come to the camp this year. His great-aunt, Jill Livingstone explains, “Tanner had some setbacks in his life recently. He lost his beloved grandfather, and I felt he really needed a positive male role model. I saw a sign on Mt. Pleasant Road advertising the CTLT Football Camp last year and encouraged Tanner to go. Even though he was a last minute sign-up, he did go and he fit right in. I had the opportunity to speak with Sheriff O’Sullivan and explained how we try to provide activities for Tanner but everything is so expensive. That’s when he told me about CTLT and the Leadership Camp. Up until the time when we dropped him off at the camp, Tanner seemed hesitant to attend the camp. After he got here and saw all the activities, he definitely wanted to stay. Sheriff O’Sullivan’s program is one of the best things that has ever happened to Tanner.”
O’Sullivan emphasizes that no tax dollars whatsoever are used for CTLT and its activities. Thanks to the generosity of a number of organizations and businesses, all CTLT activities are offered free of charge to the participants. Robert Twine, owner of Collins Machine Works, has been especially forthcoming in his support. Sheriff O’Sullivan comments, “Mr. Twine is one of the biggest reasons CTLT has been so successful. He’s a very generous yet humble man and a really good corporate neighbor for our community.”
On Sunday, May 5th, family and friends returned to the camp for a last day celebration. The event included good fellowship, awards ceremonies, and a catered luncheon. A number of local dignitaries were on hand to show their support for CTLT including City Councilwoman Debbie Ritter, City Councilman Robert Ike, and our Commonwealth Attorney Nancy Parr. Sheriff O’Sullivan was particularly gratified by seeing eight junior mentors volunteering their time at the camp. “When I saw those young men here,” O’Sullivan shared proudly, “I knew CTLT had come full circle. These junior mentors were all graduates of CTLT and they came back to help. It’s a great feeling to see them come back on their own just wanting to help. It shows character. I couldn’t be prouder.”
CTLT hasn’t forgotten the young ladies. Under the same CTLT umbrella, there is a program known as ASPIRE. This program is for female high school students in Chesapeake, and they may apply in their sophomore year for the upcoming two year term. They are exposed to the same type of character building experiences as S.T.A.R. but there are also a number of other special activities of interest to the young girls. As a special bonus, the members of ASPIRE all receive a $1,000 scholarship when they successfully complete the 2 year effort. The ASPIRE participants were on hand at the last day of the Leadership Camp to help with serving the food and cleaning up the facility afterward.
If Tanner Pittman’s experience with CTLT is any indication, the program is succeeding beyond anyone’s wildest expectation. His great aunt Jill sums it up best, “CTLT was there when Tanner needed it most. It is molding him into a better young man for the future.”
For information about all CTLT activities, please call (757) 382-2818 or visit the web site: www.ctltyouth.com.
The annual football camp will be held this year from June 20th through the 22nd. Advance registration is strongly recommended.