|Noah Johnson learns how to shoot a bow at camp.|
"I came home and found Mommy lying in the kitchen floor. She was crying so hard she was shaking. I didn't know what to do, so I went to my room and climbed on my bed and I cried until I shook, too."
These words came from a young child whose father was a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty. He was speaking to a "C.O.P.S. Kids" counselor during the National Police Survivors' Conference, a program of Concerns of Police Survivors, Inc. (COPS). COPS is a national non-profit organization that for more than 21 years has been called a "lifeline" by the surviving families of law enforcement officers killed doing their jobs.
The scenario described so simply and innocently by that young child was the catalyst that compelled COPS to develop "C.O.P.S. Kids" Summer Camp. COPS' 11th annual, "C.O.P.S. Kids" Summer Camp was once again held at Army Lake Camp in East Troy, Wis., Aug. 7, with record-high attendance.
The formula that makes "C.O.P.S. Kids" Summer Camp a valuable resource for law enforcement surviving families requires that the surviving parent/guardian attend along with the surviving children ages 6-14.
"The philosophy of our camp is that the surviving family should grieve and rebuild their lives together, " stated COPS' Executive Director Suzie Sawyer. "Widows have lost their life partner and co-parent. Children have lost a parent, usually, but not always, the father, the parent that tradition says will teach them about camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities. Each family member, adult and child, must learn to cope in their new roles, not only individually, but together as a family. A summer camp setting provides outdoor activities and plenty of opportunities for personal and family growth and enrichment. COPS supplements regular camp activities with counseling sessions facilitated by mental health professionals familiar with the trauma associated with line-of-duty death."
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was actively involved with teaching the campers archery skills, and how to fish, canoe, and shoot pellet guns and rifles. Several Wisconsin law enforcement agencies provided assistance at the Milwaukee airport, meeting and welcoming survivors.
This formula has already given healing, love, and life renewed to the 684 survivors who have attended the previous 10 camps. Record-high attendance at this year's camp included 88 surviving children and 49 parents, three of them surviving dads and one grandfather/guardian. COPS covers all costs associated with the week-long camp; survivors are only responsible for their travel to Wisconsin. Attending from Castle Dale were Lisa, Trevor, and Noah Johnson, survivors of Emery County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremiah Johnson, killed May 27, 2003.
"The 40 percent rise in camp costs this year is a double-edge sword," Sawyer continued. "COPS' sole purpose is to help law enforcement survivors rebuild their shattered lives, so of course we're delighted that word-of-mouth throughout the COPS' membership of more than 14,000 surviving households is bringing more survivors to this program. But the tremendous cost is something we didn't plan for in our yearly budget. 'C.O.P.S. Kids' Summer Camp could certainly use a guardian angel."
COPS is a 501(c)(3) corporation. Donations are tax-deductible according to IRS regulations. COPS has been awarded four out of a possible four stars by Charity Navigator, an independent charity evaluator, signifying that COPS has demonstrated exceptional financial health, outperforming most of its peers in its efforts to manage and grow its finances in the most fiscally responsible way possible.
For more information about Concerns of Police Survivors, Inc., or to help support COPS' programs, contact COPS at (573) 346-4911, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the COPS website at www.nationalcops.org.