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Cops, kids relax as guests of campground

April 18, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Pat Donohue swayed in his hammock, bathed in sunlight, a dog lulling at his side.

The Anne Arundel County Police detective and his colleagues and comrades enjoyed a little bit of doing not much at all Sunday, as Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park celebrated Maryland Law Enforcement Appreciation Weekend.

Police officers from across the state converged at the campgrounds Saturday and Sunday for free camping and family activities.

Donohue's favorite activity, he said, was simple: "This hammock."

According to co-owner Vicki Vitkun, the campgrounds were about 90 percent full this weekend for Jellystone's second appreciation weekend. Police officers and their families qualified for free tent and recreational-vehicle sites and received 50 percent discounts on cabin rentals.

Co-owner Ron Vitkun, Vicki's husband, said the event was organized to show support for police officers. Despite the trauma they face in the course of their work, Vitkun said the officers he knows are dedicated to their communities and families.

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"It was our way of saying, 'Thank you. Thank you for being there when we need you. Thank you for giving the way you do,'" Ron Vitkun said.

Donohue, 40, of Glen Burnie, Md., and his friend, Larry Dale, of Severn, Md., attended last year's appreciation weekend, which honored state public school employees. Their wives are teachers.

Dale and Donohue said they enjoyed soaking up the sun.

"You couldn't ask for a better weekend, weather-wise. It was awesome," said Dale, 41.

Gina Kracke, a mother and stepmother of six girls, said she and her friends enjoy coming to the campgrounds.

"Well, our husbands are cops, so it was nice," said Kracke, of Pasadena, Md.

As a caravan of golf carts passed her cabin, Kracke joked that the police were out serving their warrants. The campgrounds were especially safe on Sunday, she said.

The Vitkuns said many of the police officers serve areas near Baltimore.

First-time visitor Chris Jagoe, 40, held his 2-year-old daughter, Isabella, after returning miniature golf clubs to the campground gift store.

Isabella hid behind a bashful smile, as her father talked. She liked Jellystone's Yogi Bear characters, Jagoe said.

Jagoe's son, 5-year-old Quinn, said he liked playing golf.

"It was very nice. They have a nice setup here. They do a good job. They take care of guests," said Jagoe, a captain with the University of Maryland Police.

The Vitkuns said they still are deciding what segment of society they will honor next year.

Ron Vitkun said he is leaning toward honoring firefighters. Hosting a weekend for health-care workers and nonprofit agency employees also has been discussed.

Donohue and Dale, a Hewlett-Packard employee, told Vitkun they appreciated the weekend. He told them the officers deserve all the gratitude.

"Thank you for what you do. I mean, you guys are out there every day. My life's real easy compared to what you do," Vitkun said.

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