Twenty Two Years of Camp

The name Camp POSTCARD stands for Police Officers Striving to Create and Reinforce Dreams, which is the foundation of the camp program. Each summer, approximately 70 law enforcement and criminal justice professionals volunteer their time to serve as camp leaders and staff. These strong mentors allow young people to see a different side of these professionals as caring and fun individuals not just “Cops.” However, it is clear that the adult staff benefit from this experience as much, if not more, than the youth we serve.

Not your typical camp

For our campers, camp represents a chance to get away from home (often for the first time) and have a fun week designed to build their skills and self-esteem and teach healthy living habits. Campers are chosen to attend camp from across Maine and for many reasons. For some, it may be a reward for overcoming a major challenge or having a great year at school. We have had children who just need special attention (for example…after helping care for a very sick loved one who needed to receive most of the family’s attention). And sometimes, a child may have experienced a trauma. Overall, most have some need that a special camp experience like this can provide. Often, a more “traditional” camp is not able to meet their unique needs for any number of reasons. 

Donors and volunteers make camp possible

To ensure camp is available to all Maine youth, there is no charge to attend. We also make a special effort to work with families to ensure that children may come to camp. Jess is a great example. She was told at school about the opportunity to attend camp and she was a perfect candidate for this experience. She was excited and could not wait to ask her mother. As a single mother struggling to keep her family together, her mother’s first answer was no and it broke both of their hearts. 

Thank you to our 2013 donors >>

Over the years, we have worked with many similar Maine families (a very broad term that can include one or two parents or relatives caring for a child) who quite simply are not able to afford the basic resources that their children need to go to camp — things like clothing, shoes, a towel, a flashlight, sunscreen, basic toiletries, or a sleeping bag. As a result, parents are afraid and often embarrassed that their child will not be prepared and will stand out from the other children.

Jess’ dream did come true

Each year we provide all of our campers with a welcome package that contains almost everything they will need for the week such as toiletries, a raincoat, and a towel. That way, everyone is equal from the start. If they need something special like shoes or a swimsuit, we purchase those the first day of camp. Thanks to the generosity of our many donors, we were able to work with Jess’ mother (and many others) to provide the items needed to allow the child to participate in camp.

Jess met many new friends, which is something we hear all the time from campers. The week was a terrific experience for her. During her stay at camp, she said she had the opportunity to make crafts, go tubing on the lake, play sports, go swimming and fishing, climb a rock wall, receive a new backpack with school supplies for her next school year, eat lots of good food, tried lots of new things and just plain had fun. 

“Thanks for allowing me to come to Camp POSTCARD. I had a lot of fun,” Jess said. “Our cabin is so much fun. The girls are funny and they are nice. They are so funny they can even make our leaders laugh,” she said, adding, “I thought cops were just mean…but they’re not. They are actually fun and do stuff for a reason not just because they don’t like you. We even painted Kevin’s nails [one of her leaders]. He’s very nice and so funny.”

Leaders and campers learn about diversity

J. B. McDonald, a Trooper with the Maine State Police, said that camp gives leaders and campers a chance to understand that everyone comes from a different family background or lifestyle, and that’s a good thing. “It’s important to remember and understand the impact that you [as a leader] can have on a child. If we can change these young people even in a small way we have made an important and lasting difference.” McDonald continued, “Even simple things that we take for granted are huge to these campers. For example, some of our boys enjoyed just going out in a canoe and standing knee deep in the water to look at fish. It means a lot to them because they have not had an opportunity to do this before.”

Candice Simeoni from the Eliot Police Department has volunteered at camp for the past three years. Every year has left a lasting impression on her. “I always take something away every year. I always push the kids to try new things and, as a result, get to try them myself. We try new things together, learn together and grow together. Mid-week I tell them that I am a police officer. It is a great thing to see their faces. They are so surprised and happy.”

Sometimes, the impressions are profound. “I made friends with a very small child with an extensive family and life history,” Simeoni said. “I noticed that her shoes were huge. She was wearing size 8 woman’s shoes and she was only a size 5. The camp went out and got some new awesome shoes for her. Mid-week, I had the opportunity to get her another pair of shoes. I’ve kept in contact with her and sent a care package with cool socks and fun things. This is a relationship that we will build for years…and maybe a lifetime.”

Camp gives leaders a chance to proactively impact lives

J.B. and Candice summed up the camp experience together, “In law enforcement, we are generally reactively addressing things that happen and are out of our control. At camp, we get a chance to proactively impact the lives of a child. It opens our eyes…so when we see the next child in our profession we realize that there is more behind that child than we see at the time. You will never know how many kids this camp affects. It is very difficult to measure. Yet we can tell you from our experience that it is truly changing lives. It is just such an awesome week and we are just glad to be part of it…really!”

If you would like to help with camp by donating your time or resources, please contact Rhonda Cashell at 207-373-1140.

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