(left to right): Captain Steve Burgess, John Moloney and Deputy Group Officer Bill Cook
Firefighters and police officers from across Ballarat gave kids a weekend of fun at the annual Cops N Kids camp in Ballarat last weekend.
This was the 25th year the camp has been held in Ballarat, not including the past two years when the camp was cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Former Sebastopol Captain Bill Cook said the brigade jumped at the chance to get involved back in 1995 when the inaugural Cops N Kids camp was held.
“One of our former brigade members, Larry Gilmore, was also a local police officer. While his wife was battling cancer, Larry founded the camp with his close friend and fellow police officer John Moloney for kids and families who were facing their own struggles with cancer,” he said.
The goal was straightforward – to give kids a fun camp experience in a welcoming and safe setting, while giving the families of chronically ill children respite from daily worries and caring obligations.
“Another former brigade member made us aware of the first camp and asked us if we would put on a barbecue for the kids.”
The camp has grown significantly from its humble beginnings 27 years ago.
The brigade still provides a dinner at the fire station for everyone on the first night of camp, but the evening is so much more than a simple barbecue.
This year, the children and their families enjoyed decorating terracotta pots and planting seedlings donated by the local Bunnings store.
As well as ball sports and admiring fire trucks at the fire station, there was also fun fire hose activities.
“We had a dunking machine one year; it was a chilly night and a couple of us bravely offered our bodies for the cause. It’s all been worth it, to see the smiles on the kids’ faces,” Bill said.
“The highlight for the kids would have to be the showbags. John Moloney started donating the showbags many years ago and CFA has contributed many items towards them.
“Bunnings have generously donated Bunnings ‘lego’ brick sets for each showbag this year, which is just fantastic.
“We also like to have some fun with it, so we donate a whistle to each showbag. It’s our small gift to them, so they can have lots of noisy fun with each other when they get back to camp.”
Current Captain Steve Burgess reflected on the brigade values of family and tradition as relevant to their involvement.
“Our brigade values are important to us. So it’s an honour for me as the incumbent captain to keep the tradition of the brigade’s involvement with the camp going so we can continue to support the children and their families” he said.
“As a brigade, we can’t be part of the community and not be involved in the community.”
Another important way brigade members are involved in the community is through their involvement with the Good Friday Appeal.
Earlier this year, the brigade celebrated reaching their goal of collecting more than $500,000 over their 45 years of involvement.
“Supporting Cops N Kids is a natural extension of the brigade’s involvement with the Good Friday Appeal,” Steve said.
“It’s the action part of the collection,” Bill added.