At a remote lake in the middle of Wisconsin, the children of fallen police officers are working to rebuild their lives after having them turned upside down.

It’s called Kids Camp… and it might be the most incredible support system for the survivors of fallen officers in the entire world.

The camp is put on by Concerns of Police Survivors, more commonly known as C.O.P.S.

(Concerns of Police Survivors)

 

Dianne Bernhard is the Executive Director for C.O.P.S. She says that the camp is monumental for the children who have lost a parent to a line of duty death.

“C.O.P.S. supports families for a lifetime, and for some, that starts very young,” she said. “Kids come from across the country to Kids Camp, and they all have one thing in common. They have lost a parent in the line of duty. It’s here that they find other kids who understand them and feel normal.”

During the week, 150 children aged 6-to-14- years-old accompanied their parent to Kenosha Lake in Wisconsin. The week can be a challenge for some at first, but usually ends with smiles and everlasting friendships.

Kids Camp just helped 150 children make everlasting friendships. (Concerns of Police Survivors)

 

“Kids Camp is a place where surviving kids can finally see that they are not the only ones who have lost a parent in the line of duty.  They make life-long friends here and their path to healing gets a little bit easier together,” said Bernhard.

The C.O.P.S. staff says that once survivors come into the community, they hardly ever leave. These are people who have all gone though the same experiences, and understand each other like no one else can.

“It’s amazing to see kids that started coming to camp when they were six years old coming back as adults to mentor new survivors.  That is a true testament to how C.O.P.S. rebuilds shattered lives.  Peer support between survivors is the heart of this organization.”
 

C.O.P.S. is helping kids of all ages learn to cope with loss. (Concerns of Police Survivors)

 

 
The kids get to take part in activities like archery and fishing, but also get to work with mentors to learn coping skills and ways to manage their feelings and the pain that comes with it. The change in spirit from day one to the end of the week is nothing short of a miracle.
 
 
 
C.O.P.S. is the only non-profit organization in the world that admittedly doesn’t want to grow… because when they do, it means more lives have been shattered by tragic line of duty deaths.

But when these families are suffering, they are not alone. 

“Kids come from across the country to Kids Camp, and they all have one thing in common. They have lost a parent in the line of duty. It’s here that they find other kids who understand them and feel normal.”

Leslyn Stewart’s husband was killed in the line of duty in 2005. He served as a detective with the NYPD. 

“Concerns of Police Survivors is the only organization that supports you through a lifetime,” said Leslyn.

Naturally, she and her family were broken when they learned Stewart was taken from them at such an early age. Their youngest daughter Samantha was 4-months-old when it happened. 

“I miss not being able to make memories with him. He’s definitely my hero,” said Samantha.

Kids Camp bonding. (Concerns of Police Survivors)

 

Samantha says that Kids Camp and C.O.P.S. taught her it was okay to not be okay sometimes.

“I’ve learned people progress at a different rate,” she said.

C.O.P.S. holds many conferences and events throughout the year, but nothing compares to the massive presence they have during National Police Week in Washington D.C.

National Police Week Candlelight Vigil – Courtesy Kevin Ruark

 

Survivors who have been with the group for decades join hand in hand with the families of those who fell just recently. This community of support is unlike any other — and witnessing it firsthand will reduce even the most macho men to tears. 

Lauren Crisman has been involved with C.O.P.S. for nearly 5 years.. She now serves as the Development Director. 

She says at the end of the day — it’s all about the kids.

 

For more about the incredible mission of this community, visit their website or their National Chapter’s Facebook page. 

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