NORTH LAWNDALE — The family of Adam Toledo, the 13-year-old boy who was killed by a Chicago police officer, launched a nonprofit farm Wednesday to give at-risk boys a safe haven from the streets.
Toledo’s family unveiled the Adam’s Place program on what would’ve been his 14th birthday. His family said they hope the program will prevent other families from experiencing the tragic loss of a child.
Housed at a rural farm in Wisconsin, the Adam’s Place residential program will teach young people from Chicago about nature, agriculture and livestock. Toledo’s family launched Adam’s Place to give young people who are vulnerable to violence a place where they can grow and thrive.
The project honors Toledo’s earnest curiosity of nature and his love for animals, his mother Betty said in a statement read by the family’s attorney Deena Weiss-Ortiz.
“We know Adam would have loved a place in the country where boys can learn to be responsible by helping take care of animals,” Betty Toledo said in the statement. ” …The kind of place where boys can learn and grow and have a chance to fulfill their ambitions.”
The nonprofit purchased 71 acres in Potosi, Wisconsin, to house Adam’s Place, and work on a barn and farmhouse for the program may start as early as October. Nonprofit leaders will work with churches and neighborhood groups to create a referral system to enroll local youth, especially Latino boys, in the program.
“Life would have been a lot different for Adam Toledo had he been able to attend … Adam’s Place. We wouldn’t be here commemorating his loss,” said Joel Hirschhorn, an attorney for the family.
As Adam’s Place finds its footing, the program initially plans to launch as a summer camp for an initial cohort of eight young men. In the future, it could host more young men, and the residential program is expected to run year-round.
Adam’s Place will be modeled after the Boys Farm in Newberry, South Carolina, a 50-year-old program that has helped 1,000 youth with difficult family situations.
In the early morning hours March 29, Toledo was fatally shot by Officer Eric Stillman in Little Village as he raised his hands in a Little Village alley, video shows. Video released after the shooting appeared to show Toledo tossing the gun behind the fence moments before he is shot.
The fatal shooting made national news. Toledo’s family pushed back against public commentary that suggested the 13-year-old killing’s was justified or that he was a bad person.
“He was a kid who was learning his way around the world. He deserved a chance to make mistakes and learn from them,” said Esmeralda Toledo, the boy’s older sister.
She hopes Adam’s Place will give kids a refuge away from the negative influences that can put them at risk.
“What I really want is to have Adam back, but I can’t have that. But we can try to help other families to protect their sons from the temptations that took Adam into the street that night, the night he was killed,” his mother Betty Toledo said in a statement.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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