Andrew Dys

‘More than a uniform’: Rock Hill cops give camper from children's home a lasting memory

Rock Hill’s SWAT team responds to the most dangerous situations. Life and death live in these officers’ eyes. But at the Worthy Boys and Girls Camp run by the Rock Hill Police Department, the SWAT team that made a presentation to a group of campers found a situation just as important as any hostage crisis.

A child just 10 years old – taken from his home because of allegations of abuse and neglect – was one of the campers a few days ago. The camp helps 160 kids each summer, boys and girls, to have an experience they maybe would never have. This kid was picked to wear the SWAT gear, the great stuff of real heroes as the SWAT team did a presentation. The kid stood taller than a mountain in the gear.

Sgt. Mike Chavis asked the boy about his life, and the kid said that it was his birthday.

Chavis stopped all he was doing.

“He needed a birthday to remember,” Chavis said. “We wanted him to know that we are more than a uniform and a badge, that we do have a heart.”

Chavis and Sgt. Chris Crowder and Officer Will Terry rushed off to the store as the campers started another activity, then came back. They had a book bag similar to the kind SWAT guys have. They had a special watch similar to the one SWAT guys wear. They had a basketball that every 10-year-old boy wants. They spent their own money on the goods.

And one more thing. Crowder took a SWAT patch and attached it to that book bag. Those badges are as good as gold.

Then the cops snuck off. They made no big deal about the gift. It was just that – a gift.

“We felt that it would leave a lasting impression and put the police in a positive light with this young man,” Chavis said.

But that cops did not give that gift for the department, or perception, or because of all the tough incidents that police have dealt with in recent years.

“The young man needed it,” said Crowder. “You help when you can.”

So these cops took their own money and helped.

Later that night, Officer Angie Wells, camp director from the department’s community services unit, and others gave the kid his birthday presents. There was never a wider smile at a camp that has operated since 1949, always for free, and always run by Rock Hill police officers who are almost all volunteers.

“It was awesome,” said Wells. “We all were very proud of these guys for doing what they did. They did it on their own time, with their own money. They did it because they care.”

Caring is what the Worthy Boys and Girls Camp has done for 67 years. It takes about $30,000 in donations every year for 160 kids, boys and girls in different weeks all summer, to have a real summer camp, sleepover experience.

“I like this camp because I get to learn about police officers, and what they do,” said Shania Adams, 10, at a girls-week session that started Monday.

There is fishing and games and fun and all kinds of great stuff.

“For 32 children every week, we show these kids there is a person behind the badge,” Wells said. “Every child, we try to give them the summer of their lives.”

Campers stay for five days and four nights. Cops are counselors and mentors and advisers and big brothers and sisters. Every kid is great. And at that home for children in Rock Hill, one kid knows that better than anybody. He has a backpack. A watch. A basketball. And the coolest SWAT badge.

And more, a memory that these people in the uniforms, wearing the badges and the guns, told him that he was great, and that his birthday was important.

“We just wanted to be a ray of hope for him that things will be better – that things will be OK,” said Chavis the sergeant.

That kid knows that to the men and women in blue, he matters.

Want to help?

The Rock Hill Police Department Worthy Boys and Girls Camp has operated every summer since 1949, giving 160 children in five weeklong sessions a summer camp experience. To help, call 803-329-5583, email Officer Angie Wells at Angie.Wells@cityofrockhill.com; or visit the camp’s web page at cityofrockhill.com.

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