Trooper says Camp Cadet stays with participants for years

Program is especially beneficial for exploring law enforcement or military careers

June 09, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Participants in the Pennsylvania State Police-sanctioned Camp Cadet practice marksmanship Thursday at Camp Sinoquipe near Fort Littleton, Pa. Front to rear are Skyler Dick, 13; Stephen Blankley, 13; Destiny Kline, 12; and Dakota Cowgill, 12.
By Jennifer Fitch, Staff Writer

FORT LITTLETON, Pa. — Under a blistering summer sun, a camp is under way in Fulton County, Pa., this week without S'mores or campfire songs.

Instead, 29 children ages 12 to 15 are voluntarily waking up at 5:30 a.m. and running 1.3 miles before doing sit-ups and push-ups.

Yes, voluntarily. The youths applied and interviewed for spots at the camp, which is sanctioned by the Pennsylvania State Police and funded each year through private donations.

Connor Johnson, 13, enrolled in Camp Cadet last year and returned this year as one of six "senior cadets" who assist counselors.

"I just enjoyed it," Connor said. "It was sort of tough, especially at first, but once you get used to it, you really start to enjoy it."

Activities for the week at Camp Sinoquipe include water safety and marksmanship lessons, a mock robbery and criminal hearing, visits from state police and medical helicopters, discussions about Internet safety, trained dog and mounted patrol demonstrations, and first aid and CPR instruction.

Cpl. William Baker has been involved with Camp Cadet since its inception in Fulton County 17 years ago.

"We make it challenging for the kids. This whole camp is to make them a better person, so we make it hard," he said.

Trooper Roger Sheffield said he loves when the cadets approach him years later and thank him for the experience, which organizers said is especially beneficial for exploring law enforcement or military careers.

"Camp Cadet isn't something that ends on Friday. It's something that stays with them for years," he said.

"If you get one kid that comes up to you and says 'thank you,' it makes it worth it," Baker said, saying camp leaders are trying to touch the youths' lives and encourage them to make good choices.

Savannah Kerlin, 12, heard a presentation about Camp Cadet in the Central Fulton School District. Although intimidated by the physical fitness regimen in the camp video, she thought other aspects would be fun.

Now that she's experiencing the camp, Savannah said it's something she'd recommend to others.

"I'd tell them, 'If you go, you have to have courage'," she said.

Matthew Swope's older sister attended Camp Cadet in the past and recommended it to him. He said he enjoyed firing an AK-47 and other weapons under the guidance of range instructors.

"I like everything," Matthew, 12, said.

There are 26 Camp Cadet programs in Pennsylvania, although their activities and format vary, according to Don Eisaman, one of the volunteer organizers.

A donation from F&M Trust after the bank auctioned a 19th-century safe closed a fundraising gap and allowed the non-profit camp to meet its $7,500 goal this year, Eisaman said. The camp is free for families and open only to Fulton County residents, he said.

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