A day of fun for special-needs residents
By J. Chambless
A police helicopter landed in the park and stayed open for visitors.
By John Chambless
The smiles on the faces of the participants said it all on Aug. 6, when the first Sunny Day Camp was held in the Penn Township Park.
For Pennsylvania State Trooper Samantha Minnucci, who spearheaded the event that brought together law enforcement officers and special-needs residents of all ages, the day was extra special.
“Seeing my vision become a reality was amazing,” Minnucci said. “The support from the police departments, fire, EMS, Camp Cadet board of directors, fellow state troopers, Special Olympics, the Penn Township staff, volunteers and my family was overwhelmingly beautiful. My little brother Gabriel, who inspired me to create this new program, had a blast, and I'm so proud of him. The cadets and their families had smiles on their faces all day, and were able to create a strong bond with law enforcement.”
Throughout the day, visitors from ages 4 to 56 got to meet officers, see a helicopter and police vehicles, try on some equipment and play games in a relaxed setting.
“Parents were coming up and saying how amazing the day was,” Minnucci said. “There are not many things like this for them. They appreciated that something like this was happening. They were basically saying, 'Thank you for creating this.' Everyone was smiling from start to finish.”
The most popular attractions were the games, Minnucci said. “There was a relay race where we passed a trooper hat. They ran down the line and passed it to someone else, and if the hat fell, they had to pick it up and start over. They loved the obstacle course, and they got to handcuff one of the troopers. They loved putting handcuffs on someone.”
There was a tug-of-war between the participants and some troopers. “Everyone got to play with the troopers, and I think they enjoyed that the best,” Minnucci said.
A police helicopter landed in the park for a bit of spectacle, and visitors got to see inside the helicopter, as well as try on some tactical gear and hold the heavy battering ram used to knock down doors.
“It didn't rain – luckily,” Minnucci said. “I'd like to do this every year. I want it to go across the state. I'd like every troop from Pennsylvania State Police to do this. I can't do it on my own, so I'll have to get command staff to push for it as well. This is not going away,” she added. “And there's so much more I could add to it. I'm so excited about this event.”
Minnucci shared an email she received after the event, reading in part, “I want to thank you for such an awesome day. It truly was amazing to see the love you have for your brother, and the drive to make his life so meaningful. Through you, others were able to feel that love. My client Amy was the happiest I have ever seen her.”
More than 100 residents and their families took part in Sunny Day Camp, which ran from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“The day was all about brightening up the lives of all those involved,” Minnucci said. “I thank God for making this a success, along with the army of supporters.”
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.