Moving Forward Without Forgetting
C.O.P.S. Summer Kid’s Camp
“The kids are already counting down the days until camp next year,” explained Erica Aguilar, a surviving spouse who attended Concerns of Police Survivors’ Kid’s Camp with her children this year. Following the death of her husband, Sr. Patrol Agent, Luis Aguilar, US Border Patrol, on January 19, 2008, Erica wanted to make sure she was doing what she needed to help her children grieve and heal from the tragedy of losing their father. “I talked with other surviving spouses, and they all said, ‘You’ve got to take your kids to C.O.P.S. Kids Summer Camp.’ So that’s what I did,” she boasts.
“When we got to camp the kids felt at home, they felt the love, and instant emotional support,” explained Erica Aguilar who attended C.O.P.S. Kid’s Camp 2009 at The Salvation Army Lake Camp in East Troy, Wisconsin, July 27-August 2 with her two children, Luis (8), and Arianna (6). “We are all walking in the same shoes, you’re not the only one, the people around you get it, we are all trying to move on without forgetting,” Erica says explaining the atmosphere of the camp.
Erica opened up about how C.O.P.S. kid’s camp has helped her children since the death of her husband. “Luis, Jr. really opened up this year at camp. Last year he was very introverted and didn’t talk during counseling, but this year he told his whole story and was able to explain his emotions. I saw him put his arm around another little boy who didn’t want to talk during group and say ‘it’s ok.’ He has truly become a compassionate little boy.” Erica said one of her proudest moments at camp was, “When my daughter told the other girls around her that, ‘Daddy is a Border Patrol Agent in heaven,’ as she sat drawing a picture of her father as an angel.” The camp is beneficial for the surviving spouses and guardians of these children since they learn coping skills to help their children heal. “I’m always searching for a way to help our family heal. Anything that will help is what I’m after. C.O.P.S. helps me prepare for my future and my kid’s future,” states Erica.
C.O.P.S. Kids Summer Camp is held for the surviving children ages 6-14 and their parent or legal guardian of America’s fallen law enforcement heroes killed in the line of duty. This year 240 campers attended camp; there were 125 surviving children and 81 surviving parents or guardians. Also helping make summer camp a success were 15 mentors (12 are sworn law enforcement, 1 surviving adult child, and 2 law enforcement wives), 13 mental health professionals, and 6 others to help the camp run smoothly.
Summer camp provides family interaction, camp activities, grief counseling, relaxation, and lots of old-fashioned fun! Erica’s favorite part of camp is the physical activities, where the parents and children get to work together. “We are able to laugh again. I don’t have to worry about dinner, laundry, or dishes. I can just be a kid again. My children see that mom can have fun, too, and that it’s ok to laugh.”
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources held sessions for archery, canoeing, pellet guns, 22 rifles, fishing, and t-shirt making for the kids. The staff at the camp facility provided high ropes and low ropes courses, swimming lessons, and a nature hike.
Concerns of Police Survivors’ (C.O.P.S.) mission is to “rebuild shattered lives” of the surviving family members of law enforcement officers who have made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. In addition to C.O.P.S. Kids Summer Camp, C.O.P.S. hosts a wilderness experience for surviving teenagers and retreats for children, parents, siblings, spouses, and adult children of fallen officers. Starting in 2010, C.O.P.S. will be holding a retreat for affected co-workers.
C.O.P.S. is a national organization with 48 chapters throughout the United States. C.O.P.S. is a not-for-profit organization with a membership of more than 15,000 surviving families; and, unfortunately, that membership continues to grow as 140-160 law enforcement officers are killed every year in the line of duty.
To obtain more information about C.O.P.S. or its programs, contact www.nationalcops.org or contact Brooke McKay, Marketing Coordinator, Concerns of Police Survivors, P. O. Box 3199, Camdenton, MO 65020; phone: 753-346-4911; email firstname.lastname@example.org.