Brother Rice High School students got to ditch their uniforms for a day, fund-raising to buybullet proof vests for Chicago Police officers.
The one-day fundraiser, held Wednesday at the Catholic school, 10001 S. Pulaski Road, attracted about 700 students of the all-male school and raised $700 for Get Behind the Vest — an initiative the Chicago Police Department’s Memorial Foundation started a few months ago to buy the new vests.
Get Behind the Vest first contacted Brother Rice about three weeks ago, said Becky Pacetti, the school’s director of student activities, who put together the event.
In the fund-raiser, Brother Rice students were allowed to wear street clothes instead of school uniforms if they contributed $1.
“Every year during Catholic School Week we find a charity or organization to support,” Pacetti said. “We [worked with Get Behind the Vest] because we wanted to show our support of the Chicago Police Department.”
In the process of organizing the fund-raiser, Pacetti said the school realized that about 200 of their alumni are now CPD officers, as are more than 100 parents and family members of current Brother Rice students.
The school then decided to invite some of these officers to the fund-raiser, where they answered questions and took photos with the students, many of them their own sons.
Among those in attendance was Leo Schmitz, current commander at CPD’s 7th district and deputy chief of the Illinois State Police. Schmitz’s son, Jacob, is a sophomore at Brother Rice.
“[The fund-raiser was] fantastic because we have so many Brother Rice alumni at the Chicago Police Department, and some of them have died in the line of duty,” said the commander, a Brother Rice alum himself. “We want [students] to be safe and well-aware of what we’re doing.”
Schmitz also said that bulletproof vests are crucial to officers in the city.
“It’s very important. I have over 400 people working for me and they all wear a vest, but [vests] deteriorate with use,” he said. “We would hate to send officers out there with vests that are not safe.”
For his son, the fund-raiser was about keeping police officers safe.
“I think it’s great that [the school] did this,” said the 15-year-old. “[Officers] help us out every day by keeping the community safe.”
For other students whose parents are also in CPD, helping officers stay safe through an activity at their own school was uplifting.
“It felt great knowing that my entire school is on board with supporting Chicago policemen,” said 17-year-old Kevin Marley, whose dad is a CPD officer and was at work when the fundraiser took place.
Parochial schools on the South Side are just some of the institutions Get Behind the Vest has contacted to hold fund-raisers, said John Gordon, project manager at the CPD Memorial Fund. The organization also has reached out to businesses and corporations.
Get Behind the Vest started in 2014 as an initiative to raise funds to replace about 8,000 outdated vests being used by police officers now. To do so, the initiative seeks to raise $4 million to shoulder the costs, Gordon said.
One bulletproof vest costs about $500 and needs to be replaced every five years. CPD provides its officers with their first vest free of charge, but from then on officers need to pay for their own vests.
Close to $400,000 have been raised so far, with the CPD Memorial Fund contributing an additional $1 million to its initiative, according to Gordon.
Right now, the initiative is looking into using the money to purchase 2,000 vests for the officers who have been measured.