Oriskany, N.Y. - 12 kids from Oneida County, ages 9 through 12, took off from the Oneida County Sheriff's Department Sunday afternoon to head about 2 1/2 hours away to Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes region. Along the way, their bus will stop and pick up kids from neighboring counties.
They'll all be spending the next week at the New York State Sheriff's Institute Summer Camp. It's a program that is free to families around the state, families that might not otherwise be able to send their kids to such a camp. Each year, at least a dozen kids from each county get to go on the excursion.
One of the organizers of the program here in Oneida County is Oneida County Sgt. Terry Gilbert who told the kids on Sunday, "You guys are all going to have a wonderful time. It's absolutely gorgeous and you'll have so much fun have, so many activities, cookouts and bonfires, swimming, boating, you can have a ball."
The kids won't be returned home until next Saturday and for 9-year-old Noah Rocker of FLoyd, he admits he's a momma's boy, and when asked if he will miss his mom, he said, "Yes, alot." Mom, Jennifer Hardy broke down in tears when we asked if it would be hard to say goodbye to her son for the week, "I wasn't going to do this (cry), it's sad."
Sgt. Gilbert says this program has proven amazing for so many kids over the years, "This is one of the best programs that the sheriff's office offers through the New York State Sheriff's Association."
Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol was also onhand to wish the kids and their parents well. He says this wouldn't be possible without the generosity of local residents who have contributed money to help make this trip a reality for the kids, "All year long there's a membership drive where folks around the state can belong to the Sheriff's Association Institute as honorary members. It's a $25 membership fee, and that $25 goes to pay for this camp."
Maciol says this trip also teaches kids responsibilty, "Great time for the kids but it comes with responsibility with it too. These kids will be up early in the morning, they've got to clean their rooms and they're going to make their beds before they head to the kitchen for breakfast. There's different kitchen staff, they switch out helping everybody."