Friday, August 29, 2014

DARE camp brings recreation rewards

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 8/5/2013

With school fast approaching, DARE camp is a great way for kids to meet new people, organizers said.

“In two weeks, these kids will all start middle school,” Larabe Alexander, community service officer for the Ottawa Police Department, said. “They’ll be able to make new friends here and connect with old ones.”

With school fast approaching, DARE camp is a great way for kids to meet new people, organizers said.

“In two weeks, these kids will all start middle school,” Larabe Alexander, community service officer for the Ottawa Police Department, said. “They’ll be able to make new friends here and connect with old ones.”

DARE camp is an annual three-day event organized by local law enforcement officers and volunteers for incoming Ottawa sixth-graders who are graduates of the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. While at the camp, the youths get many opportunities to stay active with friendly competition, Alexander said.

Alexander, a seven-year veteran of helping to organize the event, said the children are split into six teams upon arrival at Timber Lakes Camp and Retreat Center, 1375 Rock Creek Road, nine miles northeast of Williamsburg. Those six teams compete with each other in various activities throughout the three days, including canoeing, archery, air rifles, tug of war and water events with local fire departments. Campers also do other activities such as arts and crafts and swimming at the camp, which began Sunday and ends today. All campers stay in dorms and cabins at Timber Lakes during the camp.

This summer, 78 kids attended DARE camp, Alexander said, which is a leg up since the first DARE camp in 1986 included 12 kids. The numbers are slightly down from last year’s 85 attendees, but Alexander said participation is within the average, which runs from 75-95 youths. Two years ago, DARE camp recorded 112 campers, Alexander said.

While DARE is an international program founded in 1983, the local DARE camp has been a tradition for 28 years. Alexander said it is completely free for children to attend and is very safe.

“The No. 1 thing [for the kids] is to have fun and be safe,” Alexander said. “In 28 years, we have had two stitches.”

He also said the camp is a “pretty good family affair.” All three of Alexander’s daughters, Emily, Mikala and Makayla, are in the program, and his wife, Tammy, is a camp volunteer from the Franklin County Sheriff’s office. Aside from his family, he said, there were three teams that had husbands and wives or boyfriends and girlfriends working as volunteers.

One-hundred-ninety-six local soon-to-be-sixth-graders graduated the 10-week DARE program this summer.

“Other states do other age ranges,” Alexander said. “I consider it a vacation for the kids away from their parents.”

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