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Camp gives kids a dose of discipline

June 07, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

FORT LITTLETON, Pa. - It's like a Marine Corps boot camp with state cops as the drill instructors and Fulton County school students as their recruits.

Discipline is hard-nosed and unrelenting.

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The kids try to stand ramrod straight as the cop camp directors stand bill cap to bill cap yelling orders in their faces.

The days are dawn-to-dusk and all travel to meals and activities is always on the run.

"It takes a couple of days for them to get into it," said Don Eisaman, a retired McConellsburg, Pa., state trooper who directs the week-long camp every year. "By the end of the week most want to stay another week."

The cadets, ages 12-15, come from the three Fulton County school districts. They have to apply for the program.

This year 23 boys and 16 girls make up the class.

"They run from A students to those who pass on the borderline. None are at-risk. They're all good kids," Eisaman said.

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The cadets take the ordeal in stride.

"They yell at us a lot to help us listen better, but it's not personal and it doesn't bother me," said Kegan Zeger, 12, of McConnellsburg.

"I know I'll come away a whole lot better person. The camp is good for any kid who has a problem that needs to be fixed," he said.

He said he knows how to make a bed now.

"They play loud music to get us up in the morning and they come in and beat on the doors," said Melissa Wilson, 12, of McConnellsburg. "I've learned how to march and stand in line in rank," she said.

"I'm proud of myself because I'm the person they picked to carry the flag at graduation," said Keith Deshong, 12, of Harrisonville, Pa.

Camp Cadet, started by the state police to develop a better rapport between cops and kids, is run in nearly 20 counties, Eisaman said.

It started in Fulton County six years ago. It's held in early June at Camp Sinoquipe Boy Scout Reservation north of Fort Littleton.

The camp isn't just about discipline. The cadets cram a lot of learning in a few days from a slew of programs. All are serious and most are fun.

They get to see and climb aboard police and medevac helicopters and watch firefighters cut up two junk cars in a victim extraction demonstration. They watched a K-9 dog in action, took karate lessons, learned Indian folklore and fired real guns.

On Wednesday morning they sat for two hours as Lee McMakin, a retired state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officer, taught them about snakes.

McMakin, his daughter and 5-year-old grandson brought more than 20 nonvenomous snakes to show to the kids.

Those who wanted to got to handle most of them and they got to ask a lot of questions.

They heard some snake myths dispelled.

McMakin said applying tourniquets, cutting into a snakebite and sucking out the venom does no good and often causes harm.

It costs about $5,500 a year to run the camp for a week. The money comes from individual and corporate donations, Eisaman said. Troopers and others volunteer to be counselors.

The camp started Sunday and ends with graduation Friday. Franklin County Common Please Court Judge Richard Walsh will be the graduation speaker.

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