Counterdrug Task Force supports camp for at-risk kids

Members of the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Taskforce’s Civil Operations program support the Office of the Attorney General’s Camp Virginia Rules Aug. 23 at Camp Little Hawk in Oilville. CDTF members provided the at-risk campers the opportunity to tackle the high-ropes course while learning lessons on respect, drug-free living and self-confidence. (Contributed photo)

OILVILLE, Va. — Members of the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Task Force helped at-risk kids learn about respect and gain self confidence while also learning about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse during the Office of the Attorney General’s Virginia Rules Camp, Aug. 23 at Camp Little Hawk in Oilville.

“The Virginia Rules camp is a seven-year partnership among the Attorney General’s office, the Boys and Girls Club and the Richmond Police Department,” said Amy Wight, director of the Office of the Attorney General’s Gang Reduction and Intervention Program. “The Boys and Girls Club has given us this camp site to use for one week in the summer to do this free week long day camp for up to 80 inner city kids,” she added.The Richmond Police Department, and other partners such as the Office of Multicultural Affairs, selected the campers from Richmond’s three GRIP target areas.

“They are young people who really need our help because they don’t have any other positive prospects and it is the first time many of them have an opportunity to do things like archery, canoeing and fishing,” explained Wight.

For one hour every day the campers are taught the Virginia Rules curriculum. It includes a modular, web-based curriculum with 19 lessons on topics ranging from dealing with the justice system to issues kids face every day such as bullying, teen pregnancy and underage drinking. The rest of the day is spent doing fun activities with their team leaders. These activities include presentations from guest speakers, one of whom is the CD TF.

CD TF began taking part in the Virginia Rules Camp five years ago. “We received a call from the Attorney General’s office asking for drug prevention support and we came out and set up the standard drug presentation that we give the kids,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Dolan, a community outreach noncommissioned officer with the CD TF’s Civil Operations section.

“We have a variety of guest speakers and events planned during the week for the kids, CD TF was first invited out because we knew that their message was about living healthy and they offer a lot of activities that show the dangers of underage drinking, smoking and the dangers of drug use. It’s always something new and different and they manage to find fun ways to teach these lessons,” Wight said.

This year the CD TF provided their High Ropes Course for the enjoyment of the campers, but it wasn’t just for fun and games.

“Because the camp is made up of at-risk kids we try to provide mentorship by being good role models in the hopes of influencing their decision-making long-term,” Dolan said.

While waiting in line for the high ropes course kids are taught about respect, teamwork and healthy living.

“They are learning all kinds of things about relying on other people, working together, their own inner strengths and also being healthy,” Wight explained in reference to CD TF’s participation in the camp. “In the past some of the activities have focused more on leadership but it always has a health component to it, choosing not to be involved in drugs and alcohol and choosing to live healthy.”

In addition to classes and normal camp activities, GRIP, along with CD TF and other agencies, is working towards better community relations.

“It brings together kids from different parts of the city who would not normally interact,” Wight said. “We are helping to build a healthy community dynamic, but we are also strengthening the relationship between community and law enforcement.”

Wright also pointed out that this is true of the Guardsmen as well, “Any form of authority can be seen by communities, where crime is a problem, as the enemy,” she said.

Wight explained that by creating a healthy view within the communities of military and other law enforcement personnel that the kids learn to see them in a new light, to interact with them more healthily, and in some cases, make the choice to become a police officer or National Guard member and change their life trajectory.

“They are learning to respect them as humans and not as the bad guy who is coming to arrest their cousins and their brothers and parents,” Wight said.

The Virginia Rules Camp isn’t the only program for the Attorney General’s office that CD TF supports. They have participated in many community day events and have recently begun working on the REALITY Program, which is a drug prevention education program that addresses oxycodone, methamphetamine, heroin and prescription drugs.

“Our goals in supporting the Attorney General’s office are to reduce gangs in schools and support the AG’s overall efforts to reduce drug use,” Dolan said.

“Our office has really enjoyed the partnership with CD TF over the years, specifically what they do for the kids,” Wight said.

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