Camp POSTCARD, or Police Officers Striving To Create And Reinforce Dreams, celebrates its 25th year in June. Children get a free week at summer camp, from swimming and boating and hiking to crafts and campfires. Toward the end, they learn their camp counselors and leaders are police officers and sheriff’s deputies from around Maine.
Children are selected by school officials in Lincoln County. Other counties have their own ways of nominating and choosing campers. Kids are chosen for a variety of reasons, including a recent loss in the family; a family who might not be able to afford to send them to camp; being rewarded for improved behavior; having an incarcerated parent; or attention issues that might impact how they would do in a more traditional program. Volunteers of America runs the program, along with the Maine Sheriff’s Association and D.A.R.E. For almost all the fifth and sixth grade boys and girls, it is their first sleep-away camp.
For the last several years, the camp has been held at Camp Agassiz Village in Poland. This year's is June 16 through June 22.
According to Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett, there isn’t enough money to send every child who wants to go, This year, more than 30 Lincoln County kids will attend.
Brackett and Chief Deputy Rand Maker are two long-time Camp POSTCARD veterans. Brackett’s first season was in 1999, when he was Damariscotta police chief. Maker has been there from the start.
Both said it is a worthy program, helping young people see police officers as people just like them.
“When you spend time playing with kids, or teaching kids something, they forget, if they ever knew, what you do for a living,” Maker said. “We’re going on our second generation at Camp POSTCARD – a father who attended as a child is now sending his son to camp.”
Other former campers help out as junior camp counselors.
“Lincoln Academy provides us with a bus to get campers to and from camp every year,” Brackett said. “There’s a lot of community support, helping out with food and other things campers need.” Brackett said funds are pooled for things campers sometimes need, like sleeping bags. “We send someone shopping on that first day,” he said. “But we know that’s going to happen, every year, so we plan time for it.”
After campers get settled in, the rest of the week is pure Maine summer bliss. Kids learn to swim, climb rock walls, and kayak. They take nature hikes and make crafts. They sleep in cabins, cook out over open fires, and sing around the campfire. On Thursday, “Demonstration Day," all their counselors exchange their t-shirts and shorts for full dress uniform at dinner, and the kids spend a little time learning about that part of their lives, too.
Brackett feels the program has made a real difference in children’s lives.
“People still come up to us when they see us in the store or at the post office and ask us if we remember them from camp,” he said. “I’m surprised how often I do remember them.”