WISH Patrol surprises summer camp for at-risk youth with new bus

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Each summer for the last 26 years, a group of firefighters has been turning kids into the next generation of leaders.

Taking over an elementary school on Indianapolis’ near east side, the firefighters run an intensive seven-week program for more than 100 elementary, middle school and high school students. Many come from difficult personal situations. The cadets, as they are called, are drilled, educated and mentored.

“The entire philosophy is to teach young people enough about leadership so they can learn to dream and plan again, and just experience life like they never have before,” said Anthony Williamson, co-founder of the Saint Florian Center.

While the camp is in session, the firefighters maintain their full-time positions within the Indianapolis Fire Department.

“We spend our eight hours at our camp, but when it is over, I’m going back to my firehouse to be a fireman for the rest of my 24-hour shift,” said Earl Thompson, a leader at the Saint Florian Center. “I’ll get off around 8 a.m. in the morning and I’ll be right back here in the morning.”

Each day of the week, the cadets are immersed in a new topic, exploring areas like the legal system, healthcare, securing employment and entrepreneurship. Over the years, the firefighters have seen shy kids turn into student council presidents and homeless kids become lawyers.

“As firefighters, we have a front row seat into seeing a lot of what’s going on in the community,” said Thompson. “We just wanted to do something about it.” 

Field trips are the bedrock of the camp’s success, helping expose the cadets to a world they didn’t know existed. When Earl Thompson’s wife Susan reached out to the WISH Patrol explaining that the camp’s bus was broken down, the WISH Patrol sprang into action.

Midwest Transit Equipment generously donated a new bus to the camp, to help them keep exploring Central Indiana for years to come.

“We heard about the life-changing work the camp is doing in the community,” said Jacob McBurnie with Midwest Transit Equipment. “You are raising tomorrow’s leaders and doing a great thing in the community,” said McBurnie.

Rowe and Hamilton Attorneys at Law made a generous donation to help ease some of the camps budget concerns.

“I saw the back of your shirts. You want to do something positive, you want to be someone positive and have something positive,” said Tim Rowe, partner at Rowe and Hamilton Attorneys at Law. “Because of this wonderful organization and the firefighters, we are presenting a check for $2,500.”

Also helping make the WISH Patrol surprise extra special, Hot Box Pizza donated a pizza lunch and Blue Bell Ice Cream donated ice cream for all of the cadets to enjoy.

For more information on the Saint Florian Center, visit their website. The camp is always in need of financial contributions and community support.

Is there someone you think is deserving of a WISH Patrol surprise? Fill out this form and help us share their story.

This WISH Patrol would not have been possible without our generous supporters:
●    Midwest Transit Equipment
●    Rowe and Hamilton Attorneys at Law
●    Hot Box Pizza
●    Blue Bell Ice Cream

If you or someone you know is interested in supporting an upcoming WISH Patrol surprise, please email us at

More on the Saint Florian Center: 

Motto:  Fostering Leadership, Opportunity, and Respect In All Neighborhoods  (FLORIAN)

Philosophy: Do Something Positive, Have Something Positive, and Be Someone Positive

Creed: I was made to lead, put on this earth to see how this world could be. With a passion for my followers, I will initiate those actions needing change, accept the risk of possible failure, and shoulder the blame. I will inspire others to be trustworthy in their thoughts, their words, and their deeds. I do all this because I was made to lead!