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Campers Salute Special Guest at Ceremony
Huntingtown, MD - 7/22/2012
By Marty Madden
The 16th annual Camp C.O.P.S graduation ceremony ended a memorable week for 105 middle school-aged children. Under the tutelage of Calvert County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Maryland State Police (MSP) troopers assigned to the Prince Frederick Barrack, the youngsters enjoyed and endured five days of physical activities in addition to watching law enforcement-related demonstrations.
“The campers enjoyed many things and learned about discipline,” Prince Frederick MSP Barrack Commander Lt. Randy Stephens said during the opening of the Friday, July 20 ceremony at Kings Landing Park in Huntingtown.
During the ceremony the campers, their family members and officers in attendance got a history lesson about the genesis of the summer program.
As a teenager, Calvert County Commissioner Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R] had worked as a counselor at Camp Cadet in Pennsylvania, the prototype for Camp C.O.P.S. He was mentored by Albert R. Vish, a Pennsylvania State trooper who cofounded Camp Cadet. Having reconnected with Vish several years ago, Slaughenhoupt was able to arrange for Vish to address this year’s group of Camp C.O.P.S. participants.
“You’ll never know how much this means to me,” Vish told the audience. “I never dreamed it would be the success it has been.”
Vish recalled back 1970 when he was a young state trooper the perception older school-age children had of police officers was not very flattering. “I said ‘there has be more we can be doing for the kids in our community,’ ” Vish recalled. That year he took 50 young males to camp to learn about the rigors and rewards of physical fitness and discipline. In a few short years Camp Cadet went “coed.” It also went nationwide, to some extent, with several communities adopting similar programs.
During the 1990s, Larry Titus and Bonnie Morris--two MSP troopers assigned to the Prince Frederick Barrack—started Calvert’s Camp C.O.P.S.
Vish, who has since retired from the Pennsylvania State Police, said he owns no copyright on the program but indicated he is enriched by knowing it endures.
“We should you we are no different folks than your mom or dad,” Vish told the graduating campers.He also saluted the participating officers, whom he called “my law enforcement brothers and sisters.”
Titus, who now works for Calvert County Public Schools’ Student Services Department, presented Vish with a special jacket and declared him “a forever member of Camp C.O.P.S.”
The campers received plenty of praise, too. Each participant received a small plaque and several were signaled for awards within the four “teams.” The special awards were for such things as leadership, effort, athleticism and improvement.
“It started out rough but we had a good week,” declared Detective Jay Johnson, who helped oversee the Red team.
“We got a lot of different nicknames this week,” Detective Neil Jones of the Green team joked.
The members of the Yellow team got to pass around and hold the coveted trophy awarded to the team winning the kickball tournament.
Before concluding the ceremony, Titus asked the audience to pause for a moment of silence to remember the dozen people who were massacred earlier that morning in a Colorado movie theater.
“Life is not always easy,” said Titus. “We hope you have learned this week to work with others. I hope you found something this week you can use for the rest of your lives.”
To the parents of the campers, Titus said, “thanks for trusting us.”
Contact Marty Madden at email@example.com
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