Learning and laughing

Camp Postcard experience special to campers, cop counselors
By: 
CHRIS MCCONNELL
Outlook staff writer
Proving there’s no “I” in team, Laurel’s Camp Postcard team members from the left are School Resource Officer Kyle Bryant, Alanis Durant-Torres, Promise Loan Elk, Lucy Meling, Laurel Police Chief Rick Musson, Brooklyn Emineth, Kaleb Lawson, Braelyn Marshall (in back), Brandon Folts, Cooper Davis, Junior Mentor Megan Flemmer and Laurel reserve police officer Tammy Harpster.
Park City camper Zachery Roth takes a break from learning CPR with his team to pose with friend and Stillwater County Deputy Renzle Crain at Camp Postcard in the Beartooth Mountains near Fishtail last week.
Laurel’s Camp Postcard team members are seen on Yellowstone County’s Tactical Respone Team vehicle. Back row from left: Brandon Folts, Cooper Davis, Brooklyn Emineth, Promise Loan Elk, Kaleb Lawson, Alanis Durant-Torres, Braelyn Marshall, Lucy Meling. Front row: Laurel School Resource Officer Kyle Bryant, Junior Mentor Megan Flemmer, Yellowstone Counter Undersheriff Kevin Evans, and Laurel reserve officer Tammy Harpster.
Laurel campers cheer on Kooko and Billings K-9 handler David Firebaugh as they subdue Volunteers of America Montana Division Director Nick “the perp” Little during demo day at Camp POSTCARD.

Anyone driving in the Beartooth Mountains near Fishtail last week might have had a panic attack if they saw the extensive emergency and tactical law enforcement presence. The road in and around the Beartooth Mountain Christian Ranch was lined with a SWAT team vehicle, bomb squad robots, K-9 unit, Crime Scene Investigation van, Search and Rescue vehicles, ambulances and police and sheriff cars from Missoula, Yellowstone, Gallatin, Cascade, Big Horn and Stillwater counties.
However, upon hearing cheering, chanting, clapping and laughter coming from 72 fifth and sixth grade campers, it would be obvious something else was happening; something special.
The law enforcement presence was part of demo day for an annual summer camp run by Volunteers of America Northern Rockies. The seventh annual Camp POSTCARD (Peace Officers Striving To Create And Reinforce Dreams) was held June 25-30, at the Beartooth Mountain Christian Ranch.
According to VOANR, Camp POSTCARD is a free, value-based program, targeted at fifth and sixth grade youths through direct involvement and mentoring. [The camp] establishes positive bonds between the youth, law enforcement and criminal justice professionals. The experience provides a safe environment that stresses appropriate role models, ideals and values. Campers are allowed–and expected–to share their thoughts, feelings and ideas, and learn the importance of self-respect and respect for others, and teamwork, self-control and dignity.
Seventy-two campers and 18 peace officers from across the state ascended to the Beartooths to work on team building activities and observe and participate in myriad demonstrations of law enforcement methods and procedures.
• Former Laurel Police officer and current K-9 handler for the City of Billings, David Firebaugh, demonstrated how Kooko, a Belgian malinois, subdues the bad guys.
• Yellowstone County Undersheriff Kevin Evans demonstrated the Tactical Response Team’s (SWAT) non-lethal weapons including 40mm sponge rounds, 12-gage bean bags, muzzle bangs and flash bangs.
• Bomb squads from Missoula and Big Horn Counties demonstrated their robots.
• Billings Detective Jeremy Dennler showed the tools and methods used to investigate a crime scene.
• Billing EMT’s taught campers CPR basics.
The demo day was just part of the week-long team building experience that included eight sixth-graders from Laurel, and a sixth-grader and a Junior Mentor from Park City.
For many of the campers, this was their first experience “roughing it” in the mountains.
When the Laurel campers were asked about something they learned, Braelyn Marshall said, “To go fast to the showers so we could get a warm one.” Fellow team members Lucy Meling and Brooklyn Emineth laughed and agreed, then Marshall focused on the bigger picture, adding, “Communication and teamwork were most important.”
Meling said she was learning how to trust her friends and “how to persevere when facing challenges.”
Emineth said she was hesitant about attending her first summer camp.
“I was nervous when I found out I was coming, but now I don’t want to leave,” she said, adding that she liked the “trolley” exercise.
The “trolley” is essentially two skis that several team members stand on at once, using ropes in order to lift them, thus moving the team to their target. Success in the exercise was contingent on communication and coordination.
Brandon Folts said he was enjoying the experience and said, “I would stay longer if I could.” His brother had attended the camp in a prior year and plans to come back as a Junior Mentor, “But he didn’t tell me what it was going to be like,” Folt said.
The recreational activities campers enjoyed most included the rock climbing wall and archery range.
Melson said when she got to the top of the wall the bell wasn’t working so she “pounded on the wall” to signal her success.
Park City sixth grader, Zackery Roth, stressed the teamwork aspect of the camp and said he liked archery the best.
Fellow Laurel sixth-grader Cooper Davis also liked the “bow and arrow and the rock wall,” and said he was eager to attend the camp after he was selected. He shared several concepts he and his fellow campers were learning.
“Team work is the key, two heads are better than one, and there is no ‘I’ in team” he said, and referenced the “spider’s web” as his favorite team building activity. In the Spider’s Web game, rope is strung between two stationary objects forming a web shape. Team members then pass each other through a unique section of the web without touching the ropes and “waking the spider.”
Three law enforcement professionals from Laurel attended, including Laurel Police Chief Rick Musson, Laurel School Resource Officer Kyle Bryant and reserve police officer Tammy Harpster.
Officer Bryant, the Student Resource Officer for four Laurel Schools– South, Graff, West and Middle–has been sending Laurel students for the past four years. He chooses the kids based on certain traits.
“I look for kids who show kindness and consideration for others,” Officer Bryant said, “kids who help those who are struggling and some who show leadership potential.”
This was Officer Bryant’s third year attending the camp and he said the color guard is another important part of the camp.
“We teach [the campers] to have pride in our country and in our flag, along with respect for the military and citizens,” he said. Kids who participate in the flag ceremony receive a flag that was used, but they don’t know that [until the closing ceremonies],” he said.
Officer Bryant said one of the outstanding local law enforcement leaders involved in the camp is Tammy Harpster, a Laurel reserve police officer since 2008 who is in her fourth year as a volunteer for Camp POSTCARD.
Harpster, an 8-12 grade math and science teacher in Park City, said, “It’s a great opportunity for campers with different backgrounds to work together [and get to know each other] in a new capacity.”
Harpster said the kids are notified and given an application in November and December, with final contact being made in March and April.
She said the camp is free for the students.
The participants attend on funding created by “donations to the Volunteers of America and by raffle tickets sold by the participating officers” in each region, Harpster said.
Angela Barrows, Development Coordinator for VOANR said watching the changes in the campers over the week is a moving experience.
She said many of the kids are “hesitant to be there the first day, then cry the last day because they are not ready to go home and ask if they can stay longer.”
Barrows is grateful for the tremendous support the law enforcement professionals bring to the campers and said the change of perspective in the campers is remarkable.
“The officers teach them deep respect for our flag and country, for each other and themselves, [and give them real world] team building and leadership skills. They walk away with a better understanding and respect for the role of law enforcement.”
Camp POSTCARD is a special place for the kids. It is a welcoming, fun and educational setting where kids, staff and law enforcement form bonds and learn trust and how to work as a team.
Except when it comes to the race for a warm shower.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019
10 a.m., Laurel Public Library, 720 West Third Street, Laurel, 628-4961
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., check www.laurelexchangeclub.org for more info. Find them on Facebook www.facebook.com/laurelexchangeclub . Email them to find out meeting time and to join: clubinfo@laurelexchangeclub.org The club will have a meeting or volunteer activity. Meeting location is Sid's East Side Bar & Grill on first and third Wednesdays of each month. Members and guests eat free.  Volunteer activity on the second Wednesday of each month. Check their facebook page for updates.  Every fourth Wednesday is for a club social activity. 
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Wednesday, July 31, 2019
10 a.m., Laurel Public Library, 720 West Third Street, Laurel, 628-4961
Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., check www.laurelexchangeclub.org for more info. Find them on Facebook www.facebook.com/laurelexchangeclub . Email them to find out meeting time and to join: clubinfo@laurelexchangeclub.org The club will have a meeting or volunteer activity. Meeting location is Sid's East Side Bar & Grill on first and third Wednesdays of each month. Members and guests eat free.  Volunteer activity on the second Wednesday of each month. Check their facebook page for updates.  Every fourth Wednesday is for a club social activity. 
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Tuesdays, Noon, Beartooth Grill, 305 1st Ave. S.

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