By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Rising seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-graders invaded the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg this week for the 7th annual Camp UNITE — a four-day, three-night leadership and adventure program.
This year’s theme is “Be A Hero.”
Dale Morton, UNITE communications director, said 193 students took part in this year’s Camp UNITE, which began Tuesday and wraps up today.
He said the students came representing at least 24 counties throughout the Fifth Congressional District — which now includes the counties of Lincoln, Elliot, Carter and Boyd.
“This is really good,” Morton said. “The volunteers get as much out of it as the campers.”
He explained the purpose of the annual camp is to “share and explore” ways to live life “in a drug-free way.”
“We want to show them they have the ability to have fun without drugs,” he said. “It also teaches leadership skills — (it gets them) engaged with the activities and get them out of their shell (with) positive encouragement.”
Many of the students have yet to be on a college campus prior to this event.
“This (camp) is open to anybody,” Morton said. “It’s a great opportunity for the campers to experience.”
He added it also gives those students quality mentors whom they can contact after the camp ends.
Approximately 80-100 volunteers gave their time to ensure the camp went off “without a hitch.”
“When you have this partnership in the community it makes a big difference for the whole county,” he said.
He added that one-third to one-half of the volunteers are former campers in this event.
“(These students) can talk or email — they can keep contact (with these mentors) after the camp is over,” Morton added. “They know they can turn to someone (for help).”
He said they have come a long way since the first camp, held at Breaks Interstate Park on the Kentucky and Virginia state line. That year, they had approximately 160 students bunking down on National Guard cots in National Guard tents.
Activities for the students included three days of “Fast Tracks,” which was 11 different programs designed to expose campers to other potential interests. Some of those activities included archery, soccer, drama and football.
On Tuesday, campers also participated in rotating group activities, such as swimming, games of Capture the Flag, an impaired driving demonstration and a medical helicopter demonstration.
Wednesday students were involved in group presentations, and then headed to the Kentucky Splash Waterpark for the afternoon.
Thursday’s afternoon activities included a giant slip and slide, a “slime pit,” an obstacle course, creating a “human sundae,” and much more.
Today, two motivational speakers, Josh Huffman and Morgan George, will speak with the students. Then, Fifth District Congressman Hal Rogers will address the students prior to an awards ceremony and the signing of drug-free pledges.
“UNITE” is an acronym meaning Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education. It reflects the three-pronged, comprehensive approach deemed necessary to combating substance abuse in Kentucky, according to its website.
“Operation UNITE works to rid communities of illegal drug use through undercover narcotics investigations, coordinating treatment for substance abusers, providing support to families and friends of substance abusers, and educating the public about the dangers of using drugs,” states the website. “UNITE’s goal is to educate and activate individuals by developing and empowering community coalitions to no longer accept or tolerate the drug culture.”
UNITE serves 32 counties, including Whitley, Knox and Laurel.
Annual Camp UNITE held this week at Cumberlands
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