Not your average summer camp
This is not your average summer camp experience.
Every June, a select group of fifth and sixth graders from across the state gather at the Beartooth Christian Ranch in the Beartooth Mountains just beyond Dean and spend a week building leadership, decision making skills, self-esteem and teamwork through a variety of activities, while getting to recreate by rock climbing, shooting, archery and crafts.
Welcome to Camp POSTCARD -- a free, weeklong, values-based program put on by the Volunteers of America Northern Rockies (VOANR). Camp POSTCARD stands for Peace Officers Striving to Achieve and Reinforce Dreams, as police officers serve as camp counselors in an effort designed to make positive connections with kids in the hopes of reducing tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
It was the fifth year the camp was held in the Beartooths and just the second year that a team of law enforcement officers from Stillwater County have participated. Columbus Police Officer Jacob Ward and Stillwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Renzel Crain took 10 kids with them.
Also coming to take part were several sheriffs and police chiefs, included Stillwater Sheriff Cliff Brophy and Columbus Police Chief Bill Pronovost, who all served lunch to the kids one day.
Law enforcement agencies in attendance this June included the counties of Custer, Fergus, Bighorn, Gallatin, Stillwater and Yellowstone. The following police departments were also represented: Billings, Columbus, Bozeman, Belgrade, Laurel, Miles City and Lewistown.
Campers are instructed to write on a postcard what they accomplished and how they felt about themselves. In September, those postcards are mailed to the kids to serve as a reminder of what they learned.
Daniel Burkhart, VOANR Divisional Director of Development for Montana, said that although camp lasts only a week, the bonds forged continue. This past June, 10 former campers returned to serve as junior mentors who wanted to “give back.”
“School administrators, teachers, and counselors report that kids who have attended our camp are ‘transformed’,” said Burkhart, who is also a Stillwater County resident.