Cops N Kids camp a huge success | The Courier

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It was a warm and sunny weekend with clear blue skies as a group of children experienced a fun-filled weekend to take their minds off any worries, all thanks to the dedication and careful planning of a group of volunteers. But what made this camp unique was the fact it was run by police. The Cops N Kids camp was founded by former Ballarat Sergeant John Moloney in 1995. In 2004 it was expanded to include a second camp purely for children from the Ballarat region. Mr Moloney is still involved and together with Ballarat Sergeant Dave Collins, the Cops N Kids president, the February camp has put smiles on the faces of local children for 18 years. While the location and activities have evolved over the years, the objective has remained the same: the action-packed weekend offers children living across the Ballarat region time away from the anxieties they may be experiencing. Those that attend have endured trauma, have a seriously ill family member or have come into contact with police through tragic circumstances. This journalist was fortunate enough to be invited along to this year’s camp, hosted from the afternoon of February 18 to 20, to experience it firsthand. Arriving at Ballarat Police Station on Friday afternoon, it was like a big family reunion: the majority of the children had attended the camp in previous years and ran to greet each other with teddies and sleeping bags in tow. There were hugs and laughter, with the newcomers welcomed into the tight knit group with open arms. About 5pm the group of 19 and teenagers bid goodbye to their parents and carers and clambered onto the bus, primed for an adventurous weekend on the coast. Many of the younger children were just as excited to see their friends as well as the 14 volunteers who attended the camp as carers. These included some who had previously attended the camp but returned as adult carers to allow other children to enjoy the experience, four Ballarat police members and other community volunteers. After an excitable bus trip, the group arrived at the camp at Queenscliff. The children immediately scampered across the camp. A fish and chip dinner was served to the ravenous group shortly afterwards, with the decision made to eat outdoors in the wonderfully mild weather. Rooms were then allocated, with the group spending the remainder of the night shooting hoops, playing cricket or board games. What was notable was the way in which the elder children cared for and looked out for the younger members of the group. The group rose early on Saturday morning, with pancakes drizzled in syrup fuelling the group for a big day ahead. Hopping back on the bus and travelling into the town, the first stop was the harbour for a ride on a RedBoat. Each delighted child had a turn at the wheel and as the boat cut through the waves, it stopped only for the crew to point out seabirds, seals and historical markers. The group was greeted by more police upon return to the pier – the water police had travelled from their Melbourne base to give the children a tour of their boat. Glee was clearly marked on each child’s face when it was announced that we would be taken on a trip out on their boat – for the very first time in the camp’s history. Some remained in the cabin during the trip but with clear skies and the weather starting to warm up, those brave enough ventured on to the deck. Some even had their own personal ‘Rose’ moment – spreading their arms out as they stood at the tip of the boat. After waving goodbye to the water police, we stopped off at a cafe for coffees (for the adults) and milkshakes and smoothies (for the kids) before climbing back onto the bus for the much-anticipated afternoon activity. Little tummies were starting to rumble as we pulled into Barwon Heads’ airport, so Sergeant Collins fired up the barbecue and started cooking lunch to the sound of the planes and helicopters overhead. One by one, each trio – comprising a carer and children – ventured out onto the airfield for an incredible scenic flight over the coast. After everyone had taken their turn we returned to the camp for the evening activities. After dinner we walked, ran and somersaulted along the beach, looking at shells and other items of interest along the way, before returning to the camp to toast marshmallows around the campfire. While the stories of why each individual who attends the camp varies, they all have big dreams for their futures. Some want to be police, just like their role models on the camp, while others want to be scientists and paramedics. The following morning the children all woke up and excitedly donned their bathers and applied sunscreen, before filling up on a fried breakfast. Packing up all of our things and filing into the bus we set off for a day at Adventure Park in Geelong – braving tall rides, racing down slides and relaxing on the lazy river. The bus that pulled back into Ballarat, greeted by eager parents and carers, was filled with very sleepy children and adults alike. It is without a doubt that the weekend was a huge success and that everyone returned home feeling better for the experience. Planning is now underway for the 27th year of the November Cops N Kids camp. Hosted in conjunction with Challenge, it sees Ballarat Police provide an exciting experience for more than 60 children with cancer. Have you signed up to The Courier’s variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that’s happening in Ballarat.


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