Chris Newton, chief deputy of the Huntington County Sheriff's Department, thought it was a stretch to say 40 kids would sign up for the inaugural Camp H.E.R.O., held at Crestview Middle School, in Huntington, last week.
So imagine Newton's surprise when 105 kids joined the camp.
Open to youth ages 8 to 13, the camp, sponsored by the Huntington County Sheriff's Department and Parkview Huntington Family YMCA, was something Newton, the camp's organizer, says he has wanted to do for 10 years.
The camp's letters stand for "Honor, Excellence, Respect and Opportunity," which were points emphasized to campers throughout the week by Newton and his peers in public safety, who served as camp counselors.
Newton believes that the camp's first three letters impact the fourth.
"If you live your life that way, with those three basic core principals, it will open up the door for plenty of opportunities," he states.
In addition to instilling campers with good character traits, the camp was also an opportunity for kids to get to know local public safety personnel.
"There's a lot of questions that kids have that, in school, they get to ask questions, but they don't ever get to ask us, in public safety, ‘Why do you do what you do?' and ‘What do you do to do your job?' And now we're giving them that opportunity," states Newton.
The camp's activities during the week included presentations from sheriff's deputies, Huntington police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. There were demonstrations by police dogs, bomb teams, SWAT teams, EMS personnel, the Parkview Samaritan helicopter and the conservation officers' dive team.
"We're trying to have fun through education," says Newton. "Doing this stuff is something that we love. It's something that the other counselors here love... We love what we do.
"That's why we're out here donating our time to the kids, to the community, to make them better leaders. They are our future."