About 70 youngsters are going to camp next week, the guests of 15 Howard County police officers at Camp Hashawha Environmental Center in Carroll County.
Monday will mark the 15th year that the police department's youth services section has sponsored "Bear Trax" camp for county children who would not otherwise get a chance to go to camp, said Sgt. Bo Haslup, head of the department's youth services section.
"What we want to do is provide a role model, that of the officer," the sergeant said. "We want to show them that cops can be their friends, and they can exist with us and we can exist with them."
The department has raised $10,000 from individuals and organizations to pay for the youngsters' fun this summer, he said. Fifteen officers have volunteered to spend time at the camp.
The 8- to 11-year-old campers will get to swim, fish, do arts and crafts, and play board and ball games until lights out at 9:30 p.m., Mr. Haslup said.
They will also visit the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, participate in a re-enactment of the Civil War at Camp Hashawha and learn about substance abuse.
"It's not just fun and games," Mr. Haslup said. "We want them to come back with something positive."
The campers were able to go to Camp Hashawha because their parents followed up on "Bear Trax" memos that police gave to principals to identify students who could benefit from the program.
The police department takes campers to Camp Hashawha, which is Indian for "old fields," because of its convenience, Mr. Haslup said.
It was 15 years ago when Mr. Haslup and other youth services officers discussed ways they could help the community. The camp idea came from Frank Dawson, then a youth services officer and now assistant to the director of transportation for the county department of education.
Because CB radio was popular then, the officers agreed to name the program after the popular CB name for police officers -- bear, Mr. Haslup said.
Mr. Dawson said he felt Bear Trax could be an opportunity for "kids that didn't have the opportunity to go to summer camp."
About 50 children attended the first camp.
"I'm very happy it's [still] around," Mr. Dawson said. "It's a compliment."