CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Students head back to school next week, but over the summer, some formed bonds and gained a new appreciation for our men and women in blue. The City of Charleston Police Department strives to build relationships and inspire hope during a special camp.

From a trip to explore animals at Charles Towne Landing to a fun day at the beach, rollerblading and bumper cars at Music in Motion, 25 students ages 7 to 12, from across the Lowcountry experienced the City of Charleston Police Department Camp Hope over the summer.

“The smile on their face is everything to me,” says Master Police Officer Sean Lucas.  Lucas is one of twenty CPD school resource officers and staff volunteers leading Camp Hope.  “Camp Hope is a camp sponsored by the police department where we get children to come for free to build relationships with police officers outside of our uniforms.  We try to give kids experience sometimes they will never get.”

Camp Hope, a partnership between CPD and public schools began in 2007.  Lucas says, “A lot of these kids only see us in uniform, and only see us that way.  We’re trying to relate on a personal level.  Love experiencing the positive experiences with the kids in the community.”  Seven-year-old Gracie Leary says, “It’s a fun experience.  They’re nice, to like to be with them all the time.  They help you all the time with your problems.  They try to make you feel better and they’re very nice.  They help get rid of the bad guys.”

The camp made special modifications due to the pandemic, with fewer children than usual, but during the course of six weeks,  with weekly field trips, the fun educational, recreational, and social experiences remained the same. Lucas says, “They actually do music as well.   Carolina Studios, a bus comes to the station and they get to make their own music.  The whole process of building a beat and putting lyrics to a beat, and they get a copy and get to take it with them.”

They also have lessons on the internet regarding safety and practicing habits for good health and hygiene.

Camper Rosalyn Bailey says, “We learned about online safety. I think it’s fun and I want to go back next year.”

Camp Hope wrapped up the summer with a big fun-filled finale at Hampton Park.  Sgt. Kinta Palmer says “Everybody had a great time. We took them on field trips every week.  We also taught them life lessons, how to be successful, how to act in public, and just be around the officers. A lot of people never get to be around us one on one.  It’s a good chance to do good and build community relations.”

The message is resonating.  Nine-year-old Carter Sean Menger says, “It builds friendship and trust because some people don’t like police officers that much for some reason, but I like police officers.  I might become one day.”  Eight-year-old Kerrington Johnson says, “They’re very nice and kind, and they get out of their uniforms to show them how they are in life.  They do a lot for us.”

Nurturing soil, and planting seeds for a harvest of hope. “It was really good,” says mother Brittney Edwards.  Her two sons 8-year-old Karter and ten-year-old Kaiden attended the camp.  Edwards says, “They had a lot of fun. Every day they came home with a new story, a new adventure.  They love the camp.  I love how the officers took them and mentored them. They actually get to look at them in a different light.  One of them actually said they want to be a police officer now.  It was really good.” Karter says he wants to be a police officer when he grows up because “They help the community.”  Kaiden says he’s thankful for the experience.

Over the years, Camp Hope has served more than 15-hundred students.

In the future, the  Charleston Police Department plans to incorporate junior counselors and begin college tours to prepare students for the future.