By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Lt. Andrew Copeland with the Keizer Police Department was figuring he would have to really promote Blast Camp.
Copeland had plans for promoting the June 17 to 20 event aimed at boys and girls going into grades 3 to 8.
“We anticipated probably 50 kids,” he said. “Now we’re looking at 200 youth, mainly from Keizer.”
As such, Copeland’s plans for getting the word out weren’t needed.
“We could have probably had 500 kids signed up,” Copeland said. “We only advertised by doing school letters. We didn’t advertise it during the (May 15 to 18) Iris Festival. I was going to go door-to-door to get word out at apartments. We didn’t do any of the marketing that we anticipated because of the immediate response we had.”
Registration for the event at Claggett Creek Middle School closed last Friday; at one point Copeland was getting 15 to 20 registrations a day.
According to Copeland, the premise behind the KPD’s first annual event is simple.
“We were trying to look at ways for the police department to become more transparent to the community,” he said. “It seems like, in general, there’s been a larger disconnect between police departments and the youth. What we want to do at the Keizer Police Department is put a face behind the badge. We want to get to know the kids. This is a way for us to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the youth.”
There will be various events during the four-day camp. On opening day, following registration, youth will be split into different groups. There will be K-9 demonstrations, obstacle courses, games and a junior firefighter challenge.
On the second day, the Salem Police Department SWAT and bomb squads will give demonstrations. There will be other events like flag football, basketball and relays as well.
On the third day the Marion County Marine Patrol and Oregon Department of Transportation Bike Safety teams will be on hand, with the possibility of an appearance from the Marion County Search and Rescue team as well.
On the final day, June 20, the Keizer Fire District and KPD will bring out equipment for youth to climb into.
The KPD’s recently restarted Community Response Unit team is expected to be present all four days.
“It’s going to be a fun camp over a four-day period,” Copeland said. “Hopefully the kids have a good experience.”
The KPD is providing t-shirts and lunches to all youth and volunteers throughout the duration of the camp. Walery’s Premium Pizza, Keizer Big Town Hero, Keizer Sub Shop, Little Caesar’s and the Salem-Keizer School District are all helping with lunches. Copeland noted the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes baseball organization is giving out game tickets as well, with the hope that Volcano players can come to next year’s camp.
“We have had some great people assist us,” Copeland said. “We have received just over $1,000 to make this camp work.”
Those wanting to be involved or to help next year can contact Copeland at 503-856-3463 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copeland is hoping the camp and other events help bridge the gap between officers and children.
“We want the youth to feel safe coming to us with concerns and to wave to us on the way by,” Copeland said. “We want to keep the small town community feel. A lot of the officers live here. Several officers coach in the community. This is another way for us to put names to faces. What we’d like to see is more participation from the community next year as we make the camp bigger. It’s pretty exciting.”