Everyday Heroes 2016: John Adams, McHenry Police Department

McHenry police officer John Adams has worked with volunteers to provide a Christmas for at-risk children through the Shop with a Cop program.
McHenry police officer John Adams has worked with volunteers to provide a Christmas for at-risk children through the Shop with a Cop program.

Between working the midnight shift at the McHenry Police Department and spending the day working with McHenry County Police Charities, teaching classes and spending time with his family, John Adams doesn’t get much sleep.

The McHenry police officer started with the department in 1999 after working with the Antioch Police Department. Adams’ father also was a police officer, and Adams knew that was always what he wanted to do, too.

Being a police officer is more than writing tickets for Adams, he said, it’s about the legacy he’ll leave behind.

“If I retire and leave my shiny stuff here, and I don’t leave a better legacy or better place than I walked into, then it’s not right for me,” Adams said.

The legacy he’s made in McHenry includes his dedication to the McHenry County Police Charities board, which helps fundraise for the community and develop relationships between cops and community members.

The program the group is most known for is Shop with a Cop, when law enforcement officers are paired with at-risk children.

Adams said he is the longest-serving member on the board and coordinates the Shop with a Cop program with the McHenry Police Department.

He also works with the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce, which fundraises for the event.

Wayne Seely is a chamber member who has worked with Adams on the Shop with a Cop program.

“His heart is always in the right place,” Seely said of Adams.

Seely said Adams always is thinking outside the box on how the organization can raise money to help children.

Adams is so passionate about it that he gets the whole family involved, Seely said.

Ellen Menas, Adams’ younger sister, said she has helped fundraise for the event and participated, too.

“It’s really tough to quantify and to put into words what the program means to him,” Menas said.

She said Adams is “self-sacrificing” and a great role model when it comes to helping children and showing them cops are human beings.

“He really lifts these kids up and empowers them,” Menas said.

The first year Adams participated in the event, he and his wife went shopping with a brother and sister. Adams said he was amazed the two children only wanted to buy gifts for other people at the event.

“I always tell my family and friends that all the bad stuff you deal with through the year, that one day seeing the look on the kids’ faces and the experience you have and the interactions it’s worth it,” Adams said. “We can make an impact there, and we hope we can have a positive impact on everyone that’s involved.”

Adams has seen the impact of the program on the community. Some children who were part of the program when they were younger now are donating their time or money to the program as adults, Adams said.

Aside from fundraising all year for the one day of shopping with children, Adams also teaches a junior achievement class once a week at St. Peter School in Antioch, where his 13-year-old daughter, Molly, and 10-year-old daughter, Amy, attend.

After getting off an overnight shift at 8 a.m., Adams said he was going home to make 50 chocolate covered strawberries to bring to the students for the lesson on how to run a hot dog stand, continuing his work in the community.

“I’m lucky to call him my brother,” Menas said. “And I think that the community is extremely fortunate to have someone who’s so compassionate and passionate about the community he works in and giving back on an extraordinary level.”

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