The 2016 DARE Camp was a huge success, according to Arkansas City Police Department school resource officers Chase Hobart and Brian McGee.
The camp saw an increase in campers this year, with the average daily number of 74. Throughout the week, campers were part of a scenario in which they watched and participated in the investigation of a crime.
“Our goal was to reach out to children on a different level, in hopes that they will respond better to our message of choices having consequences, with the Zig Ziglar saying, ‘You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choice,’” Hobart and McGee said in a release.
The week started with the investigation a “drug house” after law enforcement was called for a “noise complaint.” Officers were “fired upon” by role players and a “pursuit” ensued. After the scenario ended, campers were educated on the search warrant application process and helped with processing the house for drugs.
Organizations in attendance for presentations on Aug. 8 were Cowley County Emergency Communications, the Cowley County Drug Task Force and the Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP), which brought its Seatbelt Convincer to educate campers on the importance of wearing their seat belts.
On Aug. 9, the campers were very busy watching the aftermath of the vehicle being pursued by law enforcement and “crashing” into a tree at Camp Horizon.
Campers witnessed the female “suspect” driver flee from the scene, leaving two of her friends in the car with significant injuries. The Arkansas City Fire-EMS Department (ACFD) was called in to render aid and Wichita-based EagleMed also was called to fly in. The front seat passenger “died” as a part of the scenario.
Rindt-Erdman Funeral Home came later to take possession of the “body.” Among the presenters in attendance on Aug. 9 was the Cowley County Sheriff’s Office, which the campers assisted with investigating the fatality incident. EagleMed and ACFD also gave presentations, explaining their roles in the incident and answering questions the campers might have had. KHP Trooper Brian Hedgecock also was present for a demonstration with his K-9, Tex.
The scenario continued Aug. 10, with law enforcement requesting the Blue Line Trackers and Southern Kansas SWAT to assist in locating and apprehending the “suspect.” Once called in, the trackers and SWAT located the suspect and, after a short standoff, took her into custody.
The SWAT team and Blue Line Trackers, along with ACPD Detective Lt. Jim Holloway and Detective Nelson Douglas, gave presentations. Afterward, an interrogation took place with the suspects, where the campers helped to ask questions and were able to obtain a confession.
The scenario continued on Aug. 11 for its final day. Thursday’s activity consisted of showing campers the booking process. A sentencing hearing was held, with the assistance of Deputy Cowley County Attorney Larry Schwartz and Josh Albin, in which the suspect was sentenced to life in prison for felony murder.
Following court, there was a funeral with the assistance of Rindt-Erdman, allowing campers to see firsthand the consequences of the role player’s choices.
To conclude the week, the campers had a presentation from three local people who currently are part of Community Corrections. They spoke with the campers about decisions they had made in their lives, explained to them the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and related how they greatly impacted them.
Following each day’s scenario, the campers spent the afternoons participating in various activities, including swimming, riding a water slide, Slip-N-Slide Kickball, beach volleyball, and giant Jenga with “drunk goggles” to show campers the side effects of being impaired and trying to do simple tasks.
Other activities included archery, slingshot target shooting and, on Thursday, ACFD assisted with a competition between teams in a game of water soccer.
Last Friday, the campers took two buses to All Star Adventures in Wichita, where the campers were able to spend the afternoon playing various arcade games, riding go-karts and bumper boats, and participating in other fun attractions.
Many organizations provided breakfasts, lunches and snacks for the entire week, including Ark Valley Credit Union, Kanyon Gingher with The Grinder Man, Steamy Joe, Walmart, and the Early Bird Lions, Kiwanis, Lions and Optimist clubs. Their donations made it possible to feed all of the campers.