While Duke Police officers are used to serving students and employees on Duke's campus, two members of the department recently spent their vacation time helping children from around the country.
Sgt. Mark Faust and officer Chassity Warren traveled to East Troy, Wisc. from July 30 to Aug. 5 to act as mentors at the annual Concerns of Police Survivors summer camp, where children of police officers killed in the line of duty gather to cope with the grief of losing a parent. Along with other volunteers, Faust and Warren spent time with with kids at the camp between 6 and 14, participating in canoeing, rope courses, archery, camp fires and more.
It was Faust's third summer at the camp and Warren's second. Both are members of Law Enforcement United, a charitable organization that funds the camp.
"Other than the birth of my sons, it's the most rewarding thing I've ever been a part of," Faust said. "I'm happy that I'm able to work with these kids rather than someone else working with mine."
Both Duke Police officers used their own vacation time to participate in the program, where each day Faust worked with a group of eight 8 and 9-year old boys and Warren spent time with seven 10 and 11-year old girls. The camp hosted a total of 152 children.
Warren said that after a good initial experience last year, she didn't think twice about traveling north for this year's camp. Three of the girls she worked with in East Troy were repeat participants from last year.
"We had a new girl in our group whose father had been killed in April and she was having difficulties fitting in," Warren said. "I had a conversation with everyone about how we needed to band together, and I saw my group from last year really involving the new girl and making her feel at home. It was pretty amazing."
Faust said he worked with boys from Ohio, New Mexico, Minnesota, California, and Louisiana. He said one experience while he was shaving one morning highlighted the challenges some of the children face.
"A 6-year old boy came up to me and asked 'Mr. Mark, what are you doing and what is that white stuff all over your face?'" Faust recalled. "He lost his father and had never seen a man shave, so the boy and I had a nice talk to explain it to him."
Faust added that while the experience can be emotional, his annual summer trip to the camp is worth it.
"The whole week is one of the most emotionally rewarding and draining weeks you can spend," he said. "There are lots of highs and lows working with these kids, but I look forward to gong back each year."
Learn more about the Concerns of Police Survivors summer camp at the program's website.