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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.