FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — It was supposed to be a celebration as Kentucky State Police (KSP) planned to host the 55th year of their Trooper Island Kids Camp.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck and out of concern for safety, KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer made the tough decision to cancel camp but with a twist. He challenged his Trooper Island Camp Staff to develop a free virtual camp that kids can attend by watching online via an electronic device or television.
“Trooper Island Camp, located on an island in Dale Hollow Lake, provides a camping experience for nearly 800 underprivileged children each year,” says Brewer. “I couldn’t fathom not sharing this experience with Kentucky children and ending 55 years of tradition by not hosting it.”
Brewer decided that if the kids couldn’t come to camp, he would bring camp to them.
“We have the technology and resources to bring a piece of the island to the kids even if it is virtually,” added Brewer. “While we may not be able to interact in person, we can still connect with these young people and teach them skills they can utilize at home or when camp is back in session.”
The first episode will air on the KSP YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/kentuckystatepolice/) and the Trooper Island Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TrooperIslandCamp/) on June 30, 2020 at 10 a.m. After that, there will be two episodes each week during the month of July for children to watch and participate in.
Each episode will feature an activity that campers would do if they were at the island. It will also include a downloadable activity kids can do at home. Some of the topics include swimming, campfire cooking, archery and the traditional flag raising ceremony.
If a child misses an episode, not a problem. KSP intends to upload every episode after it airs to the KSP Trooper Island Camp website, along with the downloadable activity.
Trooper Island Camp Director Trooper Jonathan Biven was excited to accept Brewers challenge to develop a virtual camp and hopes children will participate and share their virtual experience along the way.
“We have some neat things planned for our virtual campers and one thing we want to do is show their involvement with us at home,” notes Biven. “We developed a hashtag and a method for parents to share photos of their children learning the activities, doing the activities or just watching along with us.”
KSP will use the hashtag #VirtualTrooperIsland and welcome parents to share photos or videos of their child during the camp episodes on KSP social media or through the agency website. Biven plans to share some of those and use them for a special graduation ceremony in August.
“The neatest thing for me, is that we are going to host a live graduation on Facebook. During that time, we plan to highlight many of the photos that we receive, announce our camp graduates and have the opportunity to give some prizes away,” says Biven.
Biven says every child that certifies they have watched all the episodes will receive a camp certificate and patch. Virtual Camp is open to all ages of children.
KSP hopes Virtual Camp may help the agency reach demographics they haven’t had the opportunity to interact with before. Brewer said Trooper Island Camp is targeted at children who otherwise could not afford to attend a summer camp and that the 800 they usually serve is a small number of the kids out there.
Virtual Camp is open to all children. There are no qualifiers for this program and because of that, I hope this platform provides the opportunity to connect troopers with more young people, says Brewer.
Brewer says Trooper Island Camp is inspiring for many children. In fact, KSP has had over 60 children attend camp and then go on to become a trooper in their adult lives.
Although Trooper Island was certainly never intended to be a recruitment effort, it speaks volumes to the positive influence that troopers have with campers during their experience.
Parents can register their kids for Virtual Trooper Island Camp at http://www.ksponline.org/TIslandVirtualCamp/
Trooper Island is a free summer camp for disadvantaged boys and girls age 10-12. Its operated by KSP on Dale Hollow Lake in Clinton County. It is financed entirely by donations; no public funds are used. Each year, the camp hosts approximately 700 children, providing good food, fresh air, recreation, guidance and structure, esteem building activities designed to build good citizenship and positive relationships with law enforcement officers.
For more information or to donate to Trooper Island Camp, please visit trooperisland.org.