Law officers interact with kids at camp

Published: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 12:00 a.m.
Joining forces Coming together Camp lessonsBy JESSE JAMIESON Special to The Sun Alachua Out of all the things in which they can participate, children at Harmony in the Streets summer camp most like to play on the Slip 'n Slide.
And like other kids, they like to test their limits, starting with conservative face-first slides and moving on to acrobatic spinning flips and twists when they get more confidence.
"Do you think I could do a flip? How about a spin? A cartwheel?" 8-year-old Nathaniel Johnson said.
This week's camp - offered by the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches - allows the disadvantaged children from the Merrillwood housing development and surrounding areas the chance to go to camp.
Like traditional summer camps, fun is the key for the 5- to 12-year-olds, and through that camp officials hope to build the children's self-esteem, sense of respect and a positive relationship with law enforcement officers.
"The deputies come out and they let the kids see that deputies are kids, too, and they know how to play and have fun," said Teresa Cone, Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches' site director. "It's good for them because sometimes the only interaction they have with police is when someone comes to their house because they've done something wrong."
The children participate in a number of outdoor activities from arts and crafts to kickball. They also get demonstrations from the K-9 unit, the helicopter patrol and Alachua Police Explorers - a group of 14- to 21-year-olds interested in a career in law enforcement - who visited along with McGruff the Crime Dog.
And even with a full uniform on, two Explorers couldn't resist joining the kids on the Slip 'n Slide.
"They came out here and it looked like fun, so we came out here," said Christine Fischer, a Union County High School student.
Alachua County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Thompson joined in the fun by giving the children an extra blast with a water gun as they came down the slide.
"It shows the kids that we're not all out there enforcing laws all the time, that we're real people," Thompson said.
And camp officials hope that type of interaction between the children and law enforcement will plant the seeds of hope and love in the disadvantaged youths, Cone said.
"We try to teach them that . . . 'you are special and you are good,' " Cone said.
CAMP on Page 4B Continued from 1B CAMP: Tries to plant seeds of hope, love Carlos Allen, 8, top, and his brother Camron Allen, 5, play with Kari Greer, a Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches group leader, during the day camp in Alachua.
Camp counselor Martha Ductan of Miami hugs McGruff the Crime Dog at the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches' weeklong day camp at Merrillwood subdivision in Alachua on Wednesday.
MARLA BROSE/The Gainesville Sun Marni McDade, 16, an Alachua County Police Explorer, twirls Tray Jenkins, 6, in the Slip 'n Slide line at the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches' weeklong day camp on Wednesday.

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