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Area youngsters participate in Camp HERO activities

Conservation Officer Andrew Harman teaches a camper how to scuba dive in the YMCA pool.
Conservation Officer Andrew Harman teaches a camper how to scuba dive in the YMCA pool. Photo by Claire Butler

Chief Deputy Chad Hammel and Scott Craft ran Camp HERO on July 11 - 14 to teach kids about law enforcement offices and overall safety.

Camp Hero stands for Honor, Excellence, Respect, and with all three of those it can lead to Opportunities.

Over the course of four days, Law enforcement officers, such as conservation officers, paramedics, police officers, and firefighters volunteered and taught kids about law enforcement and safety in all situations.

This year, there was a total of 240 kids and 10 squads. The camp includes a breakfast and lunch as well as donated snacks. On Thursday the snack was a Kona Ice food truck.

“The camp gets a lot of sponsors. They believe in this camp and our youth and what it can lead to,” said camp counselor Haley Newton.

Throughout the camp, the kids learn how to march and stand at attention. They are constantly  marching  from station to station, in a straight single file line.

“It’s such a surreal moment hearing the stomps, all coordinated and on beat,” Newton said.

During the first two days they learned from the DNR about birds of prey, with animals brought in. They also learned how to be safe with handguns.

Canine handlers came to show what would happen to a bad guy if they ran away. Sheriff Christian Newton was posed as the bad guy and the dog bit him and took him down on the ground in a demonstration.

They learned fire safety from firefighters; it’s important to have a meet up place for family in the case of a fire. They learned where to go when a fire alarm goes off and how to use a fire extinguisher.

The Allen County Emergency Rescue Team (ERT) came to show a flash bang and what protocol is for entering houses.

The U.S. Marshals taught the kids about the dangers of drugs and vape. They discussed social media dangers and emphasized how important it is to never share passwords and be cautious online.

Thursday there were two different groups. Five squads were at the Parkview YMCA with conservation officers.

Conservation Officers Adam Bailey and Kenzie Milner talked with the kids about water safety and safety gear, as well as information about their job.
Also, outside was a game of water ball where two kids teamed up at the firehoses in the attempt to push a hanging ball, with the water, to the other side of the line, where it was attached.

Inside, in the two pools, conservation officers Andrew Harman and Jacob Rutschilling taught scuba diving with the kids. In the afternoon a third conservation officer joined the two in the pool.

The other five groups of kids were across the street at Crestview Middle School where they were learning about the impacts of drunk driving. Kids would drive a golf cart through cones and then used it with drunk goggles to understand what intoxication could cause. They were also doing sobriety testing.

After lunch, they swapped locations so that all the kids were able to do all the activities and speak with all the volunteers.
The day ended with a shaving cream fight between the campers and the counselors.

Friday the kids had the opportunity to look at law enforcement vehicles, get inside them, see their lights, and hear the sirens. This is also when the yearly group photo was taken from the top of a firetruck ladder.

The day ended with a graduation at Huntington University where the kids received a certificate. Each squad counselor talked about their squad and parents come to watch.

“This program is truly one of the best in Huntington with all the opportunities it can offer and kids to get to know some local law enforcement. They meet the people who are there to protect you and know they are a safe place and familiar face - that they care about you, and you have people around you to lift you up,” said camp counselor Haley Newton. “They’re learning a lot; they have a lot of fun; it’s just a great time all around.”