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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

25-years of Cop Camp celebrated

- Campers learn to ‘pay it forward’ -

by Garrett Fodor

Nearly 80 students, from local OPP policed communities, had an opportunity to learn from several past and present police officers, while sharing laughs and making new friends, last week during the annual Essex OPP Cop Camp.  

  The participating campers spent five days and four nights at GessTwood Camp and Education Centre as part of the festivities. When the students first arrived last Sunday evening, they were introduced to everyone and shown around before they were divided into groups.

  Throughout the week, the young campers participated in games, field trips, the onsite ROPES course, and learned about the camp’s “pay it forward” theme, which provided an opportunity for the campers to give back to the community in some way. This year, the youths painted rocks with positive sayings, which will be distributed around Essex County parks over the next few months, so that others may be able to randomly come across them.

  This year marked the 25th anniversary for the camp. Since its inaugural event in 1994, thousands of youths have graduate from the program. 

  The campers were selected to attend Cop Camp by their teachers after graduating from the OPP’s Values, Influences and Peers (VIP) program in grade six. The program teaches 2,000 students across 45 different schools. The teachers selected one boy and one girl from each class to attend the camp who exhibit leadership and have met the required amount of community service hours.

  OPP Constable Jim Root has been involved in the camp for 15-years, he said the camp is beneficial to the youth who get the opportunity to participate in it for a variety of reasons, including that they get to see the officers in a different light. 

  “To see the thousands of kids over the years given the opportunity to spend time with police officers and employees will surely not only encourage them to be productive law-abiding citizens, but even perhaps give some of them the drive and inspiration to become OPP officers themselves,” Constable Root said. “Myself and other long-time members of the program are regularly approached in public settings, both in and out of uniform, by former campers, years removed from the program, who still tell us that OPP Cop Camp was the best week of their lives.”

  Many of the campers’ favourite part of Cop Camp was on Thursday, where they were given an opportunity to learn about the different branches of the OPP, including the crowd-favourite canine unit. The camp ended later that evening with the graduation ceremony.

  Root said he and other staff involved in hosting the event enjoy seeing the youths quickly grow in the camp and taking advantage of everything it has to offer. The youth, he added, are the reason why the volunteers and OPP staff host Cop Camp every year.

  He is grateful for all the support the community forwards to Cop Camp, which has helped make an impact on each of the campers’ lives this year. 

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