OPP Cop Camp returns for 24th year

by Adam Gault

Nearly 80 selected grade six Values, Influences and Peer (VIP) program graduates, from across Essex County, came together in Gesto last week to enjoy five full days of leadership and teamwork building exercises at the 24th Annual OPP Cop Camp.

Hosted at the Gess†wood Camp and Education Centre, the 11 and 12-year-old participants had the opportunity to socialize, and gain positive exposure to OPP officers and support staff, in a safe and exciting camping experience that has long been celebrated during the camp’s nearly quarter century run.

Crystal Wall, an OPP administrative assistant, and long-time volunteer at the camp, explained that much of the program’s continued success can be attributed to the theme of “paying it forward,” and that the students are taught the importance of selflessness and volunteering at the camp.

“It’s nice to see and teach the kids about those qualities, about being a leader, about paying it back,” Wall said of the values the camp looks to teach. “Not always looking for things in return, but going out, volunteering your time, showing people how to be a leader, be caring, just helping those who are in need.”

The students selected for the five-day overnight camp had successfully demonstrated excellence in the VIP program from their respective schools over the course of the last school year. Those selected, showed strong core values in leadership and teamwork roles in their classrooms, and through a selection process, were chosen to take part in the camp.

“I see kids in our local community, our towns, and they can’t thank us enough for such a great camp,” Wall explained of many of the responses from campers and parents throughout her more than ten years involvement in the program. “They learn so much about police officers, and all their types of roles. They’re not just enforcers on the road, they’re actually caring people who will volunteer their time. We have [older] campers who come back and volunteer their time because the camp had such an impact on them.”

Over the course of the week, campers were divided into multiple teams of seven to 10 students, and took part in a variety of team-building events and activities, including fishing, sailing, fitness competitions, rope-climbing courses, bowling, and daily morning inspections to ensure their cabins and sleeping areas were kept in tip-top shape as part of the personal discipline of the OPP training program.

“We try to run it almost like [OPP] training,” Wall explained. “They wake up in the morning, there’s cabin inspections, room inspections, everybody has to wear a uniform, have drill, fitness. Even though we get paid for what we do, it’s always nice to volunteer and help out the community that your serve.”