For 65 years, the officers of the Rock Hill Police Department have put on a summer camp called the Worthy Boys & Girls Camp. More than 150 kids between ages 9 and 12 get a chance to swim, go to great events, and see that police officers behind the uniforms are trying to keep the community safe.
But the camp is run solely on donations and volunteer service. So Friday, the department honored the Rock Hill Elks Lodge, which for all of those 65 years has donated to make the camp a success.
Police told the Elks leadership that without community partners, there would be no camp, and that is truly worth all the effort.
“This camp has always given kids in Rock Hill an opportunity to see police in a different light, to develop a personal relationship with the officers,” said Police Chief Chris Watts. “But it also is fun. It gives these kids who may not have a chance to go to summer camp five days and four nights of fun.”
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Officers stay overnight throughout the length of the camp, and children are fully supervised during the entire stay, Watts said. The camp is staffed and run by police officers and other emergency responders. The adult officers act as counselors and even stay over for the five summer sessions.
Mickey Brackett, past president of the Elks Lodge in Rock Hill who has been a member for more than 50 years, said the Elks built one of the cabins at the camp and donate each year to make sure the camp continues to help children.
“Any chance we have to help in our community, for children here to have this great opportunity, we are all for it,” Brackett said. “For some kids, this might be there one chance to see the officers on a personal level, and it might be their only chance to go to camp.”
Campers learn to trust police officers as friends in the community and the goal is to help children become citizens who can be leaders in Rock Hill, said Lt. Jim Grayson, who oversees the police department’s community affairs division. The camp is a sleep-over setting with cabins, dining hall and bathhouse, and dozens of activities ranging from learning first aid to crafts, obstacle course. The department also brings in the SWAT team each session, which is always a big hit with the kids.
The camp has had such success with campers that it now has set up a junior counselors program, where children who have aged out of eligibility come back to help with younger children. Officer Angie Wells has been selected to run the camp this year, and finds the volunteers and donations to make the three sessions for boys and two for girls memorable.
“The camp is fun, but it also gives every one of these children a different view of the uniform and the person in it,” Wells said.