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Boys pitch camp at West-Mar

July 25, 1997

By KAREN MASTERSON

Staff Writer

SABILLASVILLE, Md. - "Do you catch any drug dealers in Frederick?" one boy asked a police officer Friday at Camp West-Mar. "How much do you get paid?" asked another.

Their questions were directed at Frederick Police Officer 1st Class Thomas Pfarr. He described to 70 city kids why bicycle patrol is effective in inner city drug busts. "They're quiet and faster than walking on foot. And we can get into areas police cars can't."

Another Frederick police officer, Brian Burdette, introduced the kids to a 60-pound K-9, named Armor. Burdette told the boys, ages 9 to 12, boys that Armor doesn't know he's a police dog.

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"He lives with me and my family," he said as he tossed a ball for Armor to fetch.

"Armor doesn't think he's looking for narcotics. He thinks he's looking for tennis balls," Burdette said, explaining that Armor learned how to sniff out drugs by playing ball.

"Do you use rottweilers?" one boy hollered over the heads of other campers. "Does the dog get paid any money?" another queried, eliciting giggles.

The boys at Camp West-Mar were in their sixth day of what will be two weeks of free summer camp. The camp is owned by the Western Maryland District of the American Legion, which includes 18 local posts in Washington, Carroll and Frederick counties.

Individual posts sponsored the 70 campers at $110 each, allowing the boys to attend the special camp designed for underprivileged city youths.

They sleep in bunk-houses, eat cafeteria-style meals and take classes ranging from archery to woodworking.

"The camp's for unpriv... unprivileged, umm, underprivileged children. It means we don't get to do what other kids do," said camper Jonathan Miller of Hancock, as he struggled to pronounce the word.

Miller, 11, pointed to a framed 1969 news article titled, "Legionnaires building camp for underprivileged children." The article describes how the Western Maryland Legion purchased the 75-acre Camp West-Mar off Md. 77 near Foxville Road.

This year's camp marks the 25th anniversary at West-Mar, and the 38th year in which the Western Maryland Legion sponsored a summer boys camp.

"This is the most attentive they've been all week," said Paul Rodeffer, assistant camp director for 12 years, as he admired the effect the police officers had on the group.

"Anybody know what you have to do to be a police officer?" asked Deputy Forrest Sprecher of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

"Read," came one answer.

"Read, get good grades and stay in school to learn to use that knowledge," Sprecher added.

Frederick Police Officer Jesse Goode emphasized that being smart can save lives.

"In 26 years, I have never, ever discharged my weapon at anybody. I've been shot at and wanted to return fire, but I couldn't because I didn't want to hurt innocent people," he said.

When asked why they thought the police were there, Miller answered, "To teach us self-discipline, and what could happen to us if we get in trouble."

The police visit was one event in a deluge of activities for the boys since arriving at West-Mar last week.

"If you win the inspection for cleanest cabin, you get to eat first," said Jason Manning, 11, of Boonsboro.

Across the field and down one wooded path was the archery site, with bull's-eyes against bales of hay. And on the opposite side of the field, down another wooded path, was their target range, where the boys practice shooting .22-caliber rifles.

"They have to lay on mattresses and sandbags because they're too small yet to stand up," said Donald W. Schildt, Camp West-Mar director.

Schildt said the camp is in need of volunteers to serve as senior counselors, who must be at least 21, and junior counselors, who can be 16 to 18 years old.

For more information, call Schildt at 301-416-0980.

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