On Thursday, police officers left their uniforms behind to spend the day playing football and sharing cheeseburgers with about 200 Augusta kids.
“I think it’s a great thing being able to meet (with children) on this level without responding to a crime or on the worst day of their life. Here we get to throw the ball around with them,” said Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy Donald McVean who attended the Kids & Cops day camp with his bomb dog, Carson.
The sheriff’s office started the annual day camp last summer in hopes of connecting with local children who don’t typically have a good impression of officers. Some of the kids think of officers as bad guys who could take them or their parents away from their home, police said.
About 95 percent of the children are members of the Boys & Girls Club of the CSRA, but other attendees were from various neighborhoods in the area.
“The kids have been extremely receptive, which I’m shocked about,” said Dorothy Burch, a member of the Boys and Girls Club enrichment staff. “In the area we’re in they don’t usually have a positive view.”
Children spent the day in their swimsuits running from one activity to another in a field behind the club’s Division Street location. Pools, water slides and snow cones were the big hits of the day, but they also had the opportunity to play games in a video game trailer, learn about the bomb squad’s robot, meet drug and bomb sniffing dogs, see police motorcycles and play games.
The fire department teamed up with the sheriff’s office to give the children an opportunity to see inside the fire truck and interact with firefighters.
The sirens and yells from kids on Lt. Carlton Bradley’s mini fire truck could be heard from across the field.
“We tell them they can yell as loud as they wanted, but they have to stay seated,” he said.
Kids piled into the golf cart-sized fire engine with Bradley and pretended they were on the way to a fire call. They yelled out directions as he drove them over to an imaginary fire that they would quickly put out.
The sheriff also spent the day at the kids camp, taking pictures with the kids and handing out junior deputy badges, which many of the kids wore on their shirts or swimsuits.
Events like the camp not only help kids connect with officers but can serve as a visual reminder of Augusta’s next generation and just what they’re working for every day.
“It’s just as much for the police officers as the children and community,” Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Lewis Blanchard said.