After two years of cancellation, the Haddonfield Police Department’s fourth annual First Responder Camp successfully concluded with a landing by Cooper Hospital’s medevac helicopter at Crow’s Woods on June 30.
The camp is for incoming sixth through eighth graders to learn about first responders at the local, county, state and federal levels over a four-day period.
Lt. Stephen Camiscioli started the camp three years prior to the pandemic as a way to give back to the community, inspired and supported by Police Chief Jason Cutler’s interest in community policing. It has grown over the years from a one-day camp to a four-day session.
This year, the camp accepted around 40 kids. While it originally focused on career paths in the police department, this year it expanded to include the fire department and EMS first responders.
“The kids this week actually got to learn about local, like us, county, state, national U.S. Coast Guard, federal and Cooper Hospital,” said Camiscioli.
Throughout the week, campers learned about emergency responders through field trips to the Camden County Public Safety/Communication Center, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and Blue Anchor Fire Tower. They also participated in some planned police-related activities, like a crime scene investigation where participants learned how to dust for fingerprints and recreate shoe prints, and saw a DUI driving simulation with golf carts.
“Today we learned about the mounted police unit,” Camiscioli noted. “We did a lot of studying about that. We learned about the bomb squad, the sheriff’s canine unit there, emergency management.
“We basically jammed a whole lot in four days, but you know what? It’s great.”
Although U.S. Coast Guard and state DEP firefighter helicopters that were scheduled to appear had to be canceled, Coast Guard officer Lt. Parker Lee was on scene to answer questions. He is a Haddonfield resident who works as a pilot at the Coast Guard Air Station in Atlantic City.
“It’s exciting to see the interest a kid can give in something they have no idea about,” Lee explained. “A lot of them, based on their age, may not know what the Coast Guard is. They might see the new “Top Gun” movie and then a guy in a flight suit, but to feel their genuine interest in something, that means a lot to me.”
Though Camiscioli will retire in October, he intends to stay involved with the camp when it returns next year. He and Cutler agreed on their favorite part of the camp.
“I just heard a kid say, ‘This is the greatest day of his life,’” Camiscioli said. “How do you beat that?”