By Dave Rogers
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Later this month and into August, the local police department will be offering youngsters an unique opportunity to spend part of their summer vacations at a mini-camp staffed by police officers inside the Bresnahan Elementary School.
Camp founder, Officer Christopher McDonald said the three-day camp will feature games, activities and a chance to learn more about how officers and firefighters do their jobs. What it won’t be, the father of three youngsters said, is a boot camp.
“It’s all about having fun,” McDonald said.
The three-day camp runs from Wednesday, July 31, through Friday, Aug. 2, during the height of Yankee Homecoming, and is free of charge. Enrollment is limited to about 30 campers ranging in age from 6 to 10. Should poor weather descend upon the region during the camp, activities will be held inside the school, located just off High Street.
McDonald said the idea for a mini summer camp came after his experience at a summer camp in Groveland. But instead of organizing a typical summer experience, McDonald said he wanted to incorporate elements of his profession so campers could become more familiar with police officers.
“We, as adults and parents teach our kids to deal with police,” McDonald said, adding that it is sometimes better for children to see police officers as regular people as opposed to the men and women who respond to traffic accidents, 911 calls and other emergencies.
McDonald’s message is echoed in a publicity flyer: “We want them to know that we just don’t write tickets and arrest bad guys!”
Starting at 8:30 a.m. each day, campers will get an opportunity to inspect police cruisers and a fire engine, along with other emergency response equipment. Later in the morning, officers will organize games of kickball, Four Square, Capture the Flag and other activities. But McDonald stressed that officers will be playing along with them, not merely watching from the sidelines.
“Doesn’t matter what they play as long as we’re playing with them. A lot of the guys here are more excited than the kids,” McDonald said, adding about a half dozen officers have expressed interest in participating.
Among those already signed up to participate is school resource officer Gregory Whitney. With much of his time is spent inside Newburyport High School and the Rupert Nock Middle School, Whitney has limited opportunities interacting with younger children. But during the three-day camp, Whitney will be an integral part, according to McDonald.
Already the camp has drawn the attention of the Newburyport Fire Department which will be lending the services of a fire engine for campers to explore. According to McDonald, should this year’s camp go well, it’s possible the Fire Department will become more involved with future camps.
“It’s been very exciting. It’s been a lot of work but there’s been a lot of positive feedback,” McDonald said.
Space is limited so those interested are encouraged to call McDonald at the Newburyport Police Department, 978-462-4411 or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations of any amount to the Newburyport Police Association will be gladly accepted.