STRASBURG — Besides fun, the goals of the 20th annual Frederick County Sheriff’s Youth Camp were building character, teaching critical thinking and giving campers appreciation of the importance of community service.

The three-day overnight camp held at Cedar Creek Christian Camp — formerly Tri-State Christian Camp — ended Thursday. It involved about 85 children between the ages of 10 and 14. They were divided into eight squads and overseen by 15 teenage aides and junior counselors and 16 counselors. The counselors were all Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputies or administrative staff.

The fun included archery, arts and crafts, fishing, sports, target shooting with .22 caliber rifles and a tug-of-war.

There was also a community service component for the second straight year. Campers built three picnic tables for the campground to replace three aging ones. They also built two walk-in storage closets for the second straight year for Bright Futures. The local nonprofit group funnels resources from charities, businesses and places of worship to children in the county and Winchester school districts. The closets will store clothes for children in need.

“The camp is of no charge for [campers], and we think it’s important for them to give back to the community,” said Sgt. Travis Mitchell, who helped run the camp and oversees the Sheriff’s Offices nine school resource officers.

To improve critical thinking skills, campers built boats about the size of a shoe box for a race. They boats were made out of tongue depressors and had to be built to safely secure an egg. Balloons served as sails. Marshmallows glued to the tongue depressors helped keep the eggs from cracking or falling out of the boats during the race.

Mitchell said new campers are selected from the county elementary schools. Previous participants are usually invited back. They included 16-year-old camp aide Skylar Vollmer, who’s been coming since 2011.

Campers surrender their cellphones during the camp, which Skylar said helps keeps them focused and more likely to bond with one another. Skylar said she was shy the first year, but became more comfortable socializing with campers and counselors in successive years.

“It’s like a second family,” she said. “It’s not like school where there’s a lot of pressure to be one way or another. You can be whoever you want to be at Sheriff’s Camp.”

Twelve-year-old camper Steven Smith of Winchester returned for a second year. He said he enjoyed making a boat and doing woodworking for the closets and tables.

Steven said the camp is well run, and he appreciates the variety of activities offered. “We have free time and we can do tether ball, we can go to the pool, we can go down the water slide or we can play wiffle ball and football,” he said.

Mitchell said the camp costs $7,000 to $10,000 to hold annually. The money comes from proceeds from the annual Trooper Manion Memorial 5K. The race is in memory of state trooper Kevin Manion who was killed in the line of duty in Clarke County in an accidental shooting in 2006.

Mitchell said camp organizers are grateful to the businesses and individuals who donate to the race. He also thanked Frogale Lumber and Supply for donating the wood for the closets and tables. The closets were transported to Bright Futures by Combs Wrecker Service and Repair.

— Contact Evan Goodenow at

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