Lake Norman & Mooresville

It's an awesome camp for rising sixth-graders

Pulling into the parking lot of the Huntersville Athletic Park this past Monday, I noticed six Huntersville Police Department vehicles. It can be alarming to see so many squad cars all in one spot. Thankfully, the police activity was the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Summer Camp.

My son unbuckled his safety belt and sat on the edge of his seat, looking out the window of the van with great anticipation.

Under his long bangs, I could see his big, brown eyes widen as he scanned the group of campers collecting by the picnic tables.

With his backpack strapped on and the fragrance of Banana Boat sunscreen lingering, he was ready to go. He had been looking forward to this week since last year when his cousin told him, “It's SO awesome. You HAVE to go!”

The van's automatic sliding door could not open fast enough. I lost sight of him as he disappeared into a pack of rising sixth-grade dudes shifting their feet back and forth.

Officer Kristie Brafford heads up the DARE program for Huntersville elementary schools and has expanded that program into a summer camp for the second year. The Huntersville Police Department sponsors two one-week DARE camps for rising sixth-graders. Campers spent the week learning about Internet safety.

They were introduced to the Huntersville Police Special Response Team, which is a specifically selected, trained and equipped team of officers that can respond to high-risk incidents and conduct tactical operations.

Students were able to meet the Huntersville Police K-9 team and work with the Traffic Safety Team by driving golf carts while wearing Fatal Vision goggles, which simulate visual impairment caused by alcohol or other drugs.

In addition to all the great life lessons learned at DARE Camp, students also had plenty of time for new and fun experiences.

Last Tuesday, campers went to the U.S. National Whitewater Rafting Center to go eco-caching (a high-tech treasure hunt program that focuses on environmental education), flat water kayaking and rafting.

On Thursday campers enjoyed a day at Carowinds with Officer Brafford and her fellow officers.

The Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatic Center also invited the DARE campers to use its pool facilities during the week.

Several local businesses, including Chick-fil-A, Fox's Pizza and Bi-Lo, helped sponsor the camp by providing lunch.

For more information about the DARE program and summer camps, contact the Huntersville Police Department at 704-875-6542.