Camp Pee Dee Pride offers more than summer fun

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Ask any police officer and he'll tell you - crime spikes during the summer months. Clearly when school is out, boredom can breed some destructive behavior.

But in Florence County, that reality has given birth to a one-of-a-kind summer camp, a place where southern manners and respect, are instilled in the up and coming generation, all disguised as one heck of a good time.

That good time is known as Camp Pee Dee Pride.

They say idle hands are the devil's tools, but fortunately for communities like Florence County, there are fewer bored kids roaming these streets during the summer. And it's all thanks to the actions of a single deputy who believed in his heart that we owed more to our kids than this kind of a playground.

Lieutenant Keith Luckin is a forensic specialist with the Florence County Sheriff's Office. For the last 16 years, he has gladly played his part in this camp.

"It was a murder scene. 5 people were killed…," Keith said.

What on earth do murders and forensics and real human skulls have to do with getting our kids off the streets and keeping them out of trouble?

Keith continued, "It opens their minds. And as you can see with the bones, these kids love that."

These are the kids of Camp Pee Dee Pride. They are the sons and daughters of doctors, and they are also kids with nothing, parents in prison, or worse – they've been orphaned.

But they are the future of this county, like it or not. And here, Camp Pee Dee Pride captures their young minds and works to create better citizens.

Born 16 years ago out of desperation, the hearts of Camp Pee Dee Pride say they've seen enough parentless kids, enough abuse at the hands of drug infected relatives. To date 4300 kids have attended and it's free to come here.

The fascinating demonstrations include the camping, fishing, hunting, bowling, movies and the other activities donated by just about any business in town.

Narcotics Officer Lt. Wayne Howard says, "When they see me coming they know I'm begging.  But they know what good it's done for those 4000 kids."

Camp Pee Dee Pride is not teaching a skill, not recruiting future police officers, although a few alums are wearing badges today. What they are doing is making sure when you run into one of these kids, you are impressed with the man or woman they have become.

Howard says, "The goal is to teach them manners, to teach them respect, teach them not to say those three words I told you I can't stand…huh?, what? And whatever. We want them to learn words like yes ma'am, yes sir, and thank you."

Camp Pee Dee pride is no longer a summer camp here in Florence County. It's become an institution.

From falconry to family values, this camp has become such an integral part of what the Florence County Sheriff's Office feels is its basic responsibility to these kids.  In fact, the idea has grown so big its now a full time job for Lt. Howard.

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