PLAINFIELD, NJ - Thursday night was a busy one at duCret School of Art, with both the Toastmasters and Plainfield Arts Council groups holding meetings. But the most fun was happening outside on the lawn where children were going camping with a cop.
The city's first overnight Camping with a Cop program was Officer Bernel Harrison's idea. He recently became certified through the AMC, or Appalachian Mountain Club's Youth Opportunities Program. Since 1968, YOP has introduced more than 250,000 youth to outdoor adventures like camping, hiking and canoeing by providing outdoor leadership training to urban youth workers and teachers. By 2020 YOP aims to serve at least 60,000 youth per year.
Most of the twenty kids going camping in Plainfield are in middle school, but some are as young as fourth graders. Learning to tie knots was on the agenda, and the campers were required to prepare all of the meals around a campfire. Parents provided all of the food.
Harrison said, "I normally take kids out in the wilderness," to the AMC’s Mohican Outdoor Center in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Activities there can include kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, and visiting a wolf sanctuary.
Harrison is hoping more people will become certified. He also said he wants to run more overnight trips in Plainfield with the involvement of community members.
Officer Jihad Carter said despite the event name, "It's not a police thing. It's just us, volunteering with kids in the community." He said many of the children are cadets from both the Queen City Mentoring Academy and D.A.R.E. program.
New Providence's Corporal Chad Wilson stopped by and said, "throughout the summer, my department and me, personally, formed a relationship with Officer Carter, Officer Harrison, and the kids from the Queen City Mentoring Academy."
He added, "Along with the relationship that we formed, we've been inviting each other and each group to different events. Tonight I was invited to this event which, you know, I really wanted to come to, originally being from Plainfield. I wanted to see this because they didn't have anything like this when I was growing up. I'm really proud of the job these guys are doing, and I just wanted to be a part of it."
Plainfield firefighters were also on hand, along with Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant Nakera Sherman, Detective Greene of the Union County Prosecutor's Office, and other community members.
Kids 10 to 14 will have a chance to participate in Game Day with Plainfield First Responders on Thursday, Aug. 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Plainfield Public Library, 800 Park Ave. Breakfast, lunch and a snack will be provided.