Camp SHIELD Imparts A Useful Message
The Transylvania County Sheriff's Office and SHIELD camp attendees gather for a class photo. (Courtesy photos)
By Lenora Carver
For the second year in a row, the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office SHIELD camp welcomes middle school children to experience a two-week leadership and integrity building camp.
Sheriff David Mahoney started the camp last year to help children as they transition in their teenage life by instilling character, integrity, ethical leadership and increased confidence levels.
"You see kids coming from all types of different worlds come together," said Mahoney.
"And when you get them out there and really try to encourage them to try, the confidence level that you see in those days is pretty awesome."
Last year the camp was only able to accept 18 children into the program. But due to increased contributions from the public, they were able to see 23 children graduate from the camp on June 26.
Students from Brevard and Rosman Middle Schools are selected to attend the camp.
This year's campers participated in a variety of activities from team and leadership building exercises to a day trip to Carowinds.
"We partnered with Camp Greenville and they actually brought Camp Greenville to us for the first two days," said Mahoney.
During those two days, the campers met at Pisgah Forest Elementary School where the staff from Camp Greenville and the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office School Resource Officers (SRO) led campers through exercises that would be ice breakers and confidence builders.
"On the third day we traveled to Camp Greenville where we put all their team and confidence building to the test by letting them walk the high ropes course," said Mahoney.
The SHIELD campers then experienced two days and nights camping out in the forest.
"We wanted them to know there are things in their own backyards where they can have good, clean family fun," said Mahoney.
SHIELD campers spent even more time outdoors by completing a series of community service projects through the Pisgah National Forest's Cradle of Forestry program.
"By spending one day doing service projects, we taught them the importance of being a servant in leadership," said Mahoney.
"It was the importance of showing them that in order to be a leader, you first of all have to be a servant."
Mahoney said he also wanted the campers to learn about giving back to an area, community or people that give so much to them.
"I feel strongly about giving a little bit back and the best way of doing that is by finding someone or an organization and do that for them," said Mahoney.
After working on service, Mahoney said they decided to give the SHIELD campers a day to recoup by visiting Carowinds.
"It's a reward for them because these kids really jumped in there and worked hard during these two weeks with all the lessons and exercises," said Mahoney.
"Plus, it gave them some autonomy and an opportunity to exhibit what lessons they had learned. They absolutely did wonderful."
During the final day of camp, SHIELD campers received lectures on what it meant to have integrity in their life, how to be responsible for their actions, having a goal in life, demonstrating leadership, remaining a servant, and to always exhibit integrity in their actions.
Mahoney said Nathan Whitmire, a basketball player at Brevard College, talked to the campers about having a vision for their life and how to create a mission statement to live by.
Campers also watched a movie called Facing the Giants that talked about how not fear failure but have faith.
Mahoney, who was the last to speak to the group, said he tried to tie all the lessons, activities, exercises and experiences of the two-weeks together into his lecture on integrity and leadership.
"I tell them it is a fact that we have to chose how we will respond to what we face every day," said Mahoney.
Mahoney said that if you always face the situation with integrity and honesty, you would never be disappointed with your decision.
SHIELD camp ended with a graduation where 120 people, contributors, family of the campers and SRO's, gathered in the Transylvania County Library's Rogow room.
"We had guest speaker, Jamie Johnson with Crossfire ministries speak to the crowd," said Mahoney.
Johnson used the word Champion to teach the campers that their life should be about perseverance, honesty, morality and courage.
SHIELD camp, which is completely funded through donations, hopes to graduate even more children from the program next year.
"There were no tax dollars used for this program, except the money for salaries," said Captain Eddie Lance, with the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office.
"The camp is completely paid for by contributors and without the sponsors, we would never have been able to do all of this."
Mahoney agreed with Lance and said without the community's support, the camp may have never been a reality.
"The community has really gotten behind us and supported the program because they, like us, see the value in children," said Mahoney.
For instance, Mahoney said that while the SHIELD campers were camping in the Pisgah National Forest, a couple watched the campers for two days then asked someone what was going on.
"They gave us a $550 check to help out with the camp," said Mahoney.
In addition, Mahoney and Lance said if it were not for hard work and prior camp preparation of people like Ren Uriarte from the Center for Dialogue, Ashley Owen from Transylvania County Schools and the men and women SRO's, this camp would never have been successful.
"This is physically and mentally tiring for these people," said Lance.
But he said they would give all they had to help a child.
"The money we raise dictates the type of camp we have for these kids and every little bit helps," said Lance.
"Because all of us would tell you that our goal is to see this camp grow."
Lance said they even hope to one day have enough contributions to purchase a bus to help transport SHIELD campers.
"This is one of the greatest programs we have ever started in this office," said Greg Stroup, an SRO at Rosman High School.
Stroup said he believes the children build lasting relationships with other children, the community and law enforcement officers that will last a lifetime.
"The kids really appreciate what is happening and are sad once the camp has ended," said Stroup.
And although they've only been running the camp for two years, Stroup anticipates the impact on the future life of these children is yet to be seen.
"We will one day see these children become leaders and successful in their own lives," said Stroup.