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September 4, 2012

Grief camp is a safe place for adults, children in search of peace and understanding

EAST TROY, Wis. -- Conservation Warden Tim Price of Eagle River calls it the most rewarding thing he's ever done as a law enforcement officer.

And while he says he cannot speak for any of the other 21 conservation wardens who served at this year's Concerns of Police Survivors Inc. (C.O.P.S.) Summer Camp for Kids at East Troy in early August, he knows the other wardens feel a deep connection to the children and parents they have come to know at this annual grief camp.

"The wardens are part of this camp. It is hard to explain unless you experience it for yourself. We have some of the same wardens who keep coming back year after year, and each warden has their own reason for it," Price says, pledging to return every year to work the early August camp for children from across the country linked by one thing. Each has lost a law enforcement parent in the line of duty. They come here to talk, to be readily understood and just to be together as who they are -- families rocked by the worst-case scenario in law enforcement and living in a society not sure how to handle it.

Price just finished his ninth year working at a grief camp for children and surviving parents of fallen law enforcement officers, where he is known affectionately as Uncle Tim. He's been there from the first year this national support group brought its annual camp for children ages 6 through 14 to the Salvation Army Camp in this southern Wisconsin village.

Created in 1984 with 110 members, C.O.P.S. supports the families, friends and co-workers of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty as well as trainings to law enforcement agencies on survivor victimization issues and public education. More than 15,000 families belong to C.O.P.S. There is no membership fee.

C.O.P.S. programs includes the National Police Survivors' Conference in May during National Police Week and specific camps and programs for kids, young adults, spouses, parents, siblings, adult children, in-laws, colleagues and more. The C.O.P.S. Summer Camp for Kids has been held at the Salvation Army Camp in East Troy since 2004.

This year's camp, July 30-August 5, served about 160 survivor children and about 100 surviving spouses, grandparents and other adults. In addition, 40 support staff worked to provide the daily counseling sessions and area law enforcement agencies sent mentors. There is no charge to attend the camp. C.O.P.S. covers the costs through fund-raising efforts. Camp attendees only cover their travel costs.

The wardens work the various afternoon outdoor stations at the camp. These include fishing, canoeing, .22-caliber rifle shooting, pellet guns, boating safety, archery and T-shirt making. This year, in addition to leading the afternoon fishing trips, Price also helped at some counseling sessions in the morning.

The camp is growing every year and is fast approaching being too big for the current location. The group is considering alternatives. "We would really like to stay in Wisconsin because we have such a great relationship with the Wisconsin DNR," C.O.P.S. National Outreach Director Jennifer Thacker says. "Not only coming out and being here, they really engage with our children well. This is a special group of children who have some special unique grief issues and losses. They do a great job with our kids."

Mickelberg says wardens are honored and blessed to have the kids' summer camp in Wisconsin. "Our wardens understand that many of these kids no longer have the opportunity to be exposed to the outdoor world since their father was taken from them. For many of these children, it is the first time that they have been taken fishing, boating or shooting a gun or bow. This is one small way to support these families that have made the ultimate sacrifice."

Like Price, Mickelberg says what he gets in return has made him a better person in every way. "These survivors ground and instill in me what is truly important as we live out our lives. Each day that I worked at the camp I would look forward to being inspired by these survivors."

Read the entire story: C.O.P.S. Camp & Wardens: A week for kids in search of peace

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Joanne M. Haas, public affairs manager, Division of Enforcement and Science Services, 608-267-0798

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 04, 2012

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