Valley’s Future First Responders Train at Junior Police Academy

Published 9:00 am Saturday, July 15, 2023

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VALLEY — Approximately 80 local youth this week had lots of fun and learned much about what police officers, firefighters and paramedics do to protect the community. They took part in Valley Police Department’s 15th annual Junior Police Academy. Valley Police Chief Mike Reynolds was there for the Monday kickoff event at the Community Center, and Chambers County Sheriff Jeff Nelson was there for the wrap-up event on Friday at Lakeview Cabin.

Local kids from kindergarten age to sixth graders take part in VPD’s annual Junior Police Academy. Sessions take place each day of the week from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. During the week, Valley police officers talk to them about their work, East Alabama firefighters demonstrate what a fire truck can do and the County Extension Service arranged for the youngsters to see a snake show. K-9 officers Lawrence Howell and Keegan Daniel showed  how amazing well-trained drug dogs are, and the Chambers County SWAT team gave them a demonstration. Animal control officers talked to them one day and officers from the VPD’s criminal investigations unit talked to them about their work.

The kids had fun on arts and crafts day. They made paper police hats, bracelets and used t stencil to color in American flags. Big Momma’s ice cream truck came by for some cool treats on two days during the week and Thursday was get wet day.

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“It was water play day,” explained camp director Lt. Sandra Crim. “We had a slip and slide and a downhill slide on the back side of Ram Stadium. The fire department helped out with that.”

The kids kept their unbeaten streak intact in tug or war. Even though the rope broke they managed to get the camp counselors over the line.

The contest is a bit unfair. After all, there’s only 23 counselors and 80 kids pulling them.

“The counselors have a big part in our academy being a big success every year,” Crim said. “Many of them went through the Junior Police Academy during their growing-up years. The best compliment we can get is when a child told us they had a great time and that they want to do it again next year. Our counselors are extremely important. It’s their leadership and love for the kids that help keep the children responsible.”

Officers making valuable contributions to the week-long camp included Brian Yates and William Gamper of the CCSO, Corporal Stephen Doyal and Lisa Johnson with the VPD. W.F. Burns teachers Trina Green and Kristin Doyal were most helpful as well, as was retired educator Tamalita Autry.

“We want to thank the City of Valley for what it does to keep this program going,” Crim said. “The use of the Community Center and Lakeview Cabin are so important.”

On Friday’s wrap-up day, some of the children experienced the thrill of catching their first fish in the lake behind Lakeview Cabin.

“We want to thank Victor McCarden for cooking for us,” Crim said, “And we definitely want to thank the parents for entrusting us with their children this week. Each day we gave them breakfast, lunch and a snack before they left. They went through 850 bottles of water this week. We fed them hot dogs, pizza and sandwiches from Terri’s Mill Village Cafe.”

On Friday the children wore blue and gray t-shirts with the wording “I am proud to be a survivor of the Junior Police Academy.”

Sponsored helping with the expenses included Terri’s, McDonalds, Papa John’s Pizza, the Chambers County Development Authority, Chris Clark Grading & Paving, John Soules Foods, Brumfield Electric, Riggers, Fabricators and Millwrights (RFM), East Alabama Fire Department, LifeFlight, Knauf, AuburnBank, Kenny Knox, J.C. Colley Trucking, King Ford, Valerie Gray and Givorns.

Brooke Colley took individual photos of each camper.