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Campers with Deputy

The boys and girls who attend our summer camp program are often at a very impressionable age. Many have never been away from home before, much less out of their county. They are looking for role models in every area of their lives, and sometimes they come up short. Our goal at summer camp is to provide those positive role models who will have an impact on our campers for years to come!

Our theme at summer camp is “Law Enforcement Officers are Your Friends!” School Resource Deputies from all over the state make time to experience camp alongside our youth. Whether our campers are learning to paddle a canoe for the first time, catch their first fish or just how to make new friends, these deputies are here to help.

At Camp Sorensen, the Pine Cabin campers started out the morning at the canoe lake. The sun was elbowed behind a patch of gray clouds, holding off the summer heat for a few more hours. The boys huddled under a low tent to strap on their life jackets. They whispered and chatted among themselves, occasionally glancing over at the two deputies waiting on the edge of the lake.

Finally, one of the boys got up his nerve and walked over to Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputy Colby. The camper’s eyes darted around as he approached, and he was gripping the straps of his life vest tightly. Deputy Colby leaned forward as the young boy asked his question.

“Is putting on a life jacket like putting on a bulletproof vest?” the boy asked. Deputy Colby thought about it for a moment.

“You know, it’s actually a lot like that!” he said.

The boy’s face brightened. Satisfied with this answer, he reunited with the other boys and shared his findings. After this icebreaker, the boys began to swarm around the edge of the lake, talking with the deputies and asking for help as they loaded up two to a canoe. The deputies became a seamless part of this group of curious, excited young boys.

They answered questions, gave advice on proper canoe paddle technique, and even got out on the lake along with the campers. On the other side of the camp, the Magnolia Cabin campers gathered around their group leader for Group Building. This series of games helps the cabin mates learn to communicate and work together as a team. The first task was the Frankenstein Walk.

Three girls stepped on ski-shaped wooden boards and held onto a series of ropes. Their goal was to walk the boards from one end of a clearing to the other, where Alachua County Deputy Jack was waiting.

When a group of girls was struggling with their boards, Deputy Jack left his post at the finish line and tried to help the team come up with a strategy. He pointed out that the previous team had a lot of success calling out commands so everyone knew when to move. The girls listened to Deputy Jack and calls of “One, two, three, LIFT!” could be heard ringing through the trees.

Deputy Keith from Okaloosa County enjoyed the time he spent with his campers. The girls in his group talked to the deputy about their lives, including their parents and siblings, and he offered advice for how to work on those relationships back home.

“A lot of these kids, like these girls, don’t have father figures,” Deputy Keith explained. “It’s a big deal to them to make them feel like the center of the universe.”

On another, sunnier morning, a group of boys gathered around the lake with a cluster of fishing poles and two cans of worms. Deputies from Leon and Alachua counties helped the boys put weights on their lines and dig worms out of the dirt-filled cans to put on their hooks.

Many of these young boys had never been fishing before. The deputies made it their mission to make sure every boy in the cabin caught a fish before they left for the next activity. Each deputy teamed up with a boy and hiked around the lake to find the perfect spot. Whenever a camper would reel in their first catch, their shouts of excitement echoed across the lake.

Our summer camping programs are built around these interactions between campers and deputies. Boys and girls spend the week learning to build healthy relationships with Law Enforcement Officers from their communities. When you send a kid to camp, you are helping them to learn how to respect themselves, authority figures and the world around them. Thank you for helping our summer camp programs continue to change lives!