Annual LaGrange Youth Police/Fire camp set to begin

Steena Hymes

June 12, 2014

Nineteen years since its inception, the LaGrange Police Department-sponsored Youth Police/Fire Camp continues to grow and is coming back to the Mike Daniels Recreation Center starting next week.

Officer Natalie McKinley, who has assisted with the camp for 15 years, said each year has seen a steady growth in participants, and as a result, this year’s camp will be split into two weeks and separated by age. McKinley said this will accommodate for the large turnout. Currently there are 63 campers signed up.

“This is something we enjoy doing every year … the parents start calling us before school is even out asking about the camp,” McKinley said, adding that most kids are repeat campers who return year after year.

The first week, beginning Monday, will host the younger ages, 7-11, and older campers, ages 12-16, will be hosted the week of June 23.

“Separating the younger kids from the older kids, they will be more comfortable around their own age group and have more in common … rather than trying to have a 7 year old relate to a 16 year old.”

Hosting two separate weeks isn’t the only change to this year’s camp. In previous years, officers and firefighters created a wreck simulation as a way of presenting different type of emergency vehicles. Instead, this year will feature what McKinley called a static demonstration where campers can go to each vehicle and receive a more one-on-one education on how each works.

The LaGrange Fire Department will spend one day offering educational classes and presentations on fire safety. Campers will have the chance to be involved in hands-on demonstrations using a fire extinguisher and water hose.

The agencies presenting vehicles will include the LPD negotiation squad, the emergency services unit, American Medical Response, LaGrange Fire Department and the Army National Guard.

Other activities will include a K-9 demonstration, a tour of a crime scene van, a field trip to Butts Mill farm, tour of the LPD and LFD, and swimming. The campers will also be able to drive a golf cart using fatal vision goggles as a way to teach against drinking and driving. An anti-bullying presentation also will be featured.

McKinley said the camp hopes to teach kids while they’re young about what police work looks like.

“We give the kids the opportunity to see different aspects of police work because it’s not about putting people in jail and it’s not about always arresting the bad guy,” she said.

The camp also aims to promote teamwork, life skills, self-confidence and citizenship.

There is no costs for parents to send their kids as the camp is completely sponsored by the LPD.

At the end of the week, campers will have a graduation ceremony where they receive free t-shirts and awards, including best listener, best camper and best attitude.

The camp runs Monday through Friday starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m. at the Mike Daniels Recreation Center. Applications are available at police headquarters. For more information, contact officers McKinley, Lane Hamer, Monica Nunley or Unricky Parks at 706-883-2603.

“It’s something positive that the kids can do during the summer to keep their focus on good things and I think they enjoy it,” McKinley said. “We hope they have fun, but learn something in the process about our careers.”