Camp runs gamut from zip-lining to scuba-diving

Weeklong state-police program features myriad activities for Chester County youth

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

About 100 young participants experienced Chester County’s 2012 Camp Cadet program, held this year at Camp Saginaw in New London Township.

On Friday, a group of 100 young people proudly passed muster as the 2012 Chester County Camp Cadet hosted its graduation ceremony.

The weeklong overnight program, available to children  ages 11 to 13, began statewide in 1970 when a state trooper in western Pennsylvania envisioned an opportunity to promote good relations between the police and young people.

Since then, the successful concept has been copied at 26 locations throughout the state. Chester County has been running its version since 1971.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for everyone involved,” said Trooper Corey Monthei, a 17-year veteran who has served as director of Camp Cadet since 2005. “We have normal summer camp activities, but with a law-enforcement vibe.”

For example, besides swimming, canoeing, archery – even zip-lining – campers experienced scuba-diving and its importance in retrieving underwater evidence, K-9 demonstrations, and military marching, said Monthei, who also serves as public information officer for the Avondale barracks.

Cadets live in an atmosphere modeled after the State Police Academy, where emphasis is placed on improving self-discipline, confidence and self-esteem.  During the  week, cadets learn teamwork and the benefits of making good decisions as well as respect for authority and each other.


Campers stand at attention during exercises at the 2012 Camp Cadet program.

“It’s not a boot camp,” said Greg Cary, regional external affairs manager at Peco Energy who serves as vice-president of the Camp Cadet board of directors. “It’s a wonderful experience for these kids.”

Cary said the program, held this year at Camp Saginaw in New London Township, gives the participants an opportunity to bond with members of law-enforcement while offering valuable lnsight into a profession that serves their communities.

Monthei said the staff of 15, which includes state troopers, other law-enforcement personnel and a nurse, donate much of their time to participate. He said troopers are paid for an eight-hour shift but spend 24 hours a day with the cadets. “Our nurse schedules her vacation time so that she can participate,” Monthei said.

To be eligible for the free program, cadets must be at least 11 and not yet 14 by the first day of camp. They must be Chester County residents or attend a county school.  The selection process is based on numerous factors and is at the discretion of the camp director; however, Monthei said efforts are made to accommodate interested participants.

Funding for the program is made possible by the camp’s board of directors, said Monthei. In addition to

securing private and corporate contacts to facilitate the operation of the program, they also organize an annual golf outing, which is a primary fund-raiser.

“We couldn’t do this without a committed board,” Monthei said.

Cary, a former police officer in Caln Township who has been involved in the program on and off since the ‘90s, insisted Monthei does the heavy lifting and applauded his dedication.

“He has run this program so well … like no one else I’ve seen,” said Cary. “He just puts everything into it.”

Cary said his only regret this year was that a scheduling conflict prevented him from returning to Camp Saginaw after its opening day. “I really wanted to try zip-lining,” he said.

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