First responders acting as camp counselors surprise kids at Camp - KPTV - FOX 12

First responders acting as camp counselors surprise kids at Camp Rosenbaum

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A bunch of local kids got a big surprise on their final day of summer camp. Their counselors were secretly first responders from all across the state.

"It's awesome," said camp counselor and Beaverton Police Public Information Officer Mike Rowe. "We spend the week together, we become friends and then in the end they realize they just spent the week with military, fire fighters and law enforcement, it's just amazing."

Camp Rosenbaum is held at the Camp Rilea Armed Forces Training Center in Warrenton.

Some kids that attend the camp are considered at risk youth, all come from low income families living in housing authorities across the state. Camp Rosenbaum makes it possible for kids to stay for free.

"We have a lot of activities going on all week long, we ride horses, we go swimming in the ocean, which is a first for many of these campers," said Camp Director Espirito Meller. "Specifically we talk about ideas and making good choices. The Portland Police Bureau comes out, they have a great program that teaches gang resistance and training. We talk about drugs and the impact drug use will have on them. Many relate to that because they're seeing it in other people. We also talk to them about what it takes to become a great citizen and to be successful in life.

Lessons campers learn with the guidance of their counselors they know only as camp volunteers all week long. Most have no clue what their real jobs are, until the last day.

"The theme of the day for Friday is that good citizens are everywhere," said Meller.

While the campers think their counselors are outside putting their bags on the bus to go home, in reality they all left to go change into their uniforms. 

Once they returned, the room full of kids exploded with applause and cheers.

"We like to do it that way because there's this perception around the military and around law enforcement. We want to dispel that and show them the picture of real people, with real hearts who value and care about them and can bond with them without the uniform being out front," said Meller.

It's a surprise meant to break down barriers and make lasting connections in the community.

"A lot of people when they see police, something bad has happened, or it's not always a good time," said Rowe. "We want them to get to camp and not have any disposition, or judgment that cops are bad, or scary, because they wouldn't have fun. Now, hopefully when they get back home they tell their friends that police are great, they do care and we're hoping they will spread the word."

Camp Rosenbaum partners with Home Forward to recruit and refer kids between the ages of 9-11 they think would benefit from a week at camp.  For more information visit: http://www.camprosenbaum.org/

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