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Free summer camp offered to area youth

By Alex Bridges - abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Summer camp often brings up thoughts of fishing, swimming and friendly competition.

But many area youths never take part in such an outdoor activity.

So the Frederick County Sheriff's Office holds its free summer Youth Camp for children in grades 5-7 for a week in August.

This year's camp begins Aug. 8. The six days of activities held at the Boy Scouts of America's Camp Rock Enon gives youths a chance to play sports, learn how to fish, use a bow and arrow as well as swim and hike.

Organizers use the camp to help build the relationship between law enforcement and the youths, according to Sheriff's Office Maj. Robert Eckman, who also heads up the effort.

"It's amazing that some kids have never been camping, never fished," Eckman said Monday.

Total camp costs run between $13,000 and $16,000, according to Eckman. It costs about $200 to support each camper, with expenses including equipment, food and water, he said.

The sour economy forced organizers to limit the number of campers to 72 and set up registration on a first-come, first-served basis, Eckman said. More than 130 youths had signed up for the camp in 2009.

In an effort to raise more money to run the camp, the Sheriff's Office plans a public safety fair at Rutherford Crossing on Martinsburg Pike from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Deputies will be available to check child safety seats and conduct fingerprinting, Eckman said.

The fair will feature a K-9 demonstration and a patrol car for children to see.

What started with Chick-Fil-A offering to help sponsor the event turned into a shopping center-wide initiative, Eckman said. The center will host a free outdoor screening of "Shrek the Third." A number of stores will give 10 percent of their sales to the youth camp, according to a news release from the shopping center.

The camp couldn't happen without the help of the community, Eckman said.

The Sheriff's Office has held the camp for the past 11 years thanks to donations from individuals, businesses and organizations, sometimes through sponsorships.

The camp has received help from Valley Health workers who gave campers physical examinations, Eckman said.

The summer camp was once offered mainly to less-fortunate children, but organizers have since opened up registration to any youths living in Frederick County, Eckman explained.

Registration is also open to children who may be staying with family in the county during camp week, though they may not live locally, he added.

Camp participants named as male or female camper of the year can apply to serve as junior counselors in their eighth-grade year, according to Eckman, which a number of youths have done in the past.

Junior counselors serve as mentors and leaders and provide supervision.

Campers are divided into teams that participate in various sports and other competitive activities, Eckman said.

At the end of camp, children take part in an Olympics-style competition, performing in several of their best activities they participated in throughout their time at camp, Eckman said.

Winners of the competition will receive medals for their performance and gift cards.

Organizer added a "gladiator" competition this year in which participants battle each other using padded equipment, Eckman said.


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