ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Aug. 13, 2015) -- APG police officers and firefighters set aside time to educate and entertain local special needs children and youth during an open house at the Directorate of Emergency Services building at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Aug. 13.
P&J Life Skills, a local respite care center for special needs children and adults requested the event as part of its Camp Empower summer camp program. DES Capt. Gerald Dove said police officers and firefighters jumped at the opportunity.
"We thought it was a great chance to provide an outreach service to the community," Dove said, adding that the volunteer police officers and firefighters put it together "in just a few days."
According to its website P&J's Life Skills provides life-skills training and social skills development through respite care for families, individual care services, summer camps, activities and community based events. These activities are catered to promote growth for individuals with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities.
P&J Life Skills co-owners and counselors Jon Williams and Phil Givens led the group of campers.
"We basically fill in the time parents are at work and provide social and life skills development utilizing community involvement," Williams said.
Camp Empower has visited other local emergency responder operations in the area in sync with Emergency Services Week, observed Aug. 10-14, Givens said.
He added that counselors and volunteers are trained for interactions with special needs children as well as in first aid, CPR and crisis management.
The police and fire open house included a K-9 demonstration, a tour of a fire engine and ambulance, and a chance to operate a fire hose. The camp's children and youth also viewed the Special Reaction Team's tactical equipment demonstration led by Officer Paul Chin. Marine and Wildlife Officer Ed McCall showed the campers four-wheeler off-road vehicles and a boat used for search and rescue situations.
Dominique Blount, P&J client care director, said the organization was appreciative of DES's willingness to serve its youth.
"I've been doing this less than two years but this is the most rewarding work I've done," she said. "It's always nice to find others who feel the same."
Blount is the daughter of Jeffrey Blount, deputy associate director, SEC operations and Catherine Blount, G-8 program analyst, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command.