Camp Heroes brings together at-risk kids and emergency responders

July 30, 2019 08:10 AM

RUSH, N.Y. (WHEC) — At-risk youth will get the chance to go camping with everyday heroes.

Aptly named Camp Heroes, the week-long, overnight camping trip is hosted by the local Volunteers of America and the Rochester Rotary Sunshine Campus.

“We started five years ago, modeling it after a program our affiliate in Maine puts on called Camp Postcard,” explained Rob Stedman, the vice president of Services for children and families at the VOA Children’s Center on Lake Avenue.

The camp counselors are actually local first responders who are volunteering their time to spend with the kids. It includes members from the Rochester police and fire departments and Monroe County 911 dispatchers. 

The children, ages 9-13, get the opportunity to go boating, archery, and rock-climbing. Most importantly, they get to create a positive relationship with emergency responders who they may otherwise never meet or only meet in the time of a crisis.

This year, Stedman held a reunion event with every former camper and first responders who volunteered. They conducted an impact survey where kids talked about their favorite activities, and how the camp changed their perception of police officers, firefighters, and public service overall.

“One of our [former] campers is actually in the fire department’s junior training program. He started with us at 12 or 13, now he’s 17 and he’s grown. Those were the opportunities we’re looking to create when we started the camp,” expressed Stedman.

The first responders often keep their connections with the campers going, checking in with them throughout the year to see how school and everyday life is going.

Click here to learn more about Camp Heroes.

You can also become a hero for a kid in need by sponsoring their camping trip or donating items like new sleeping bags and pillows. 


Stephanie Robusto

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