ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officer/Community Outreach program has grown over the last 10 years, right along with its annual Shining Star Summer Youth Camp.
Started with a single deputy, Cpl. Jeff Spaller, the SRO program now has six officers and is preparing to add dozens more in preparation for fulfill the county’s mandate of having an officer in every Baldwin County school.
By the end of the next school year, plans are to have more than 50 officers in place with the combined forces of the BCSO and local law enforcement.
Like the county’s SRO program, the Shining Star Youth Camps started with just a single camp. This past year, four camps were held throughout Baldwin County, beginning with June 13-15 at Rockwell Elementary in Spanish Fort. Two camps were held in July, Baldwin County High School in Bay Minette, July 18-20; and Central Baldwin Middle School in Robertsdale, July 25-27.
On Saturday, Aug. 4, more than 400 youth between the ages of 8 and 12, and their family members, are expected to converge on Fairhope Intermediate School, the site of the final summer camp, for an end of summer celebration which will include participants from all four camps.
“After a decade of holding these camps, it’s really cool to see some of the older campers who have come back year after year,” Spaller said, “along with so many fresh faces, many of whom are the younger brothers and sisters of the older campers.”
The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office Shining Star Youth Camp is a program established to promote positive interaction between the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and children between the ages of 8 and 12. The purpose of the program is to build life skills, instill confidence and develop self-esteem. The curriculum includes a wide range of activities that will incorporate team work, physical fitness and general Sheriff’s Office information. This program is a cooperative effort by several public safety and public service agencies throughout Baldwin County, which provides knowledge in a safe and fun environment.
Activities include drug awareness with K-9 demonstrations, crime scene investigations, boater’s safety with simulators, fire safety, physical health information, bowling, obstacle courses, guest speakers, a family fun day, and many other activities. This is a prime opportunity for our youth to learn from our law enforcement in an up-close and personal atmosphere while having fun.
“Over the last nine years we have had over 4,000 kids come to our youth camps,” Spaller said. “Find a one time or repeat camper and ask about our camp. It doesn’t take long to see the smiles come across their faces with an eagerness to share an experience of something they learned.”
The camp staff is comprised of volunteers of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement and public safety participating agencies. Local businesses also contribute to the program.
“I want to say a special thanks to Coca-Cola, who is basically our only major sponsor,” Spaller said. “They provide water and sodas to all the campers throughout the four camps and without them, none of that would be possible.”
Preparations are already underway for the 2019 Shining Star Camp and Spaller encouraged anyone who would like to participate to keep watching the Sheriff’s Office website at sheriff.baldwincountyal.gov for details or call Tracey Jones at 251-972-6890.