Every child should be able to experience summer camp, and the Kentucky Sheriff's Association is making that possible.
Thanks to the Kentucky Sheriff's Boys and Girls Ranch in Gilbertsville, underprivileged elementary school kids can go to camp at no cost to them.
Since 1975, children from ages 8 to 11 participate in usual camp activities, such as swimming, fishing, horseback riding, arts and crafts, and group activities. They also receive instruction in law enforcement, drug awareness and child abuse. The camp is for both boys and girls and takes place throughout the summer for six weeks, each week rotating between all-boy campers and all-girl campers.
"The sheriffs wanted to give children the opportunity to be with positive role models and programs," said Jerry Wagner, former Fleming County sheriff and the current executive director of Kentucky Sheriff's Association and the Boys and Girls Camp.
"As far as education, we do drug and alcohol education classes. We do classes on what's right and wrong, like what's inappropriate for someone to say or do to you," said Wagner. "We try to do a lot of interactions with sheriffs and deputies to leave them with a positive view of law enforcement."
In terms of funding, Wagner said, "We are funded by the generosity of the public making donations. It's a tough position to be in. We have to make a plea to the public that what we're doing is worthwhile. It's doesn't cost one dime for the kids to attend."
During the week of June 29, boys attended camp from the following counties: Breckinridge, Bullitt, Calloway, Carroll, McCracken, Marshall, Menifee, Muhlenberg, Nelson, Pulaski, Robertson, Trigg and Webster.
Harley Landry, 10, of Breckinridge County said that this is his second year attending the Boys and Girls Ranch. His favorite camp activity was shooting archery with a bow and arrow. He also liked the drug awareness class and being with the other boys his age.
"We learn to get along with others," he said.
Logan Hutson, 10, of Bullitt County said he enjoyed swimming in the pool and learning about child abuse. Even though this is his first year at the camp, he said he isn't homesick.
"I have so much fun here that I forget about it," he said.
McCracken County Deputy Jim Wilson transported 13 local campers to the ranch. Participating youth from McCracken County included: Christian Wilson, William Silkweed, Quemarian Smith, Camron Cutner, Johnathon Bartholomew, James Gentry, Logan Smith, Jozay'von Diaz, Jerome Tyler, Tyreke Winston, Terry Rogers, Brandon Reichard and Phillip Jones.
To keep this camp completely free for participating children, Wagner asks the public to join the cause.
"What we're doing is making a difference," he said. "Whether its moral or financial support, we do appreciate it because we feel our community and the children need this."
Contact Katie Paxton, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8655.