More than 200 kids descended upon Strathcona Park this week for the 30th annual Vancouver Police Soccer Camp.
“We spend a lot of time in the community with policing it, obviously, but this is a great way to actually get to know people and for them to get to know us,” said Const. Rob McCaul, with the VPD Soccer and Service Club, which organizes the event with support from the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“This is the 30th year so over the years we’ve had people partake in the camp and go on to become police officers,” McCaul said. “And people who have come up to us on the street and said ‘Hey, I remember you coaching me so many years ago.’ It’s a great way to actually make those connections.”
The annual camp sees police officers coaching the kids along with a Whitecaps coach, with help from teens who attended the camp as kids.
“I’m always amazed when these kids get together… when you see in the background kids just running around playing this beautiful game of soccer and making friends, it really does show the great effect that the beautiful game can have,” said Carl Valentine, a current Whitecaps ambassador and former player who spent a combined 17 seasons as a player or manager with the Whitecaps and Vancouver 86ers.
Each day of the four-day camp includes a visit from different police officers, including the motorcycle drill team, the emergency response team and the K9 unit. In addition to learning and practicing soccer skills, the kids also receive personal safety presentation from VPD school liaison officers.
The camp wraps up Friday afternoon with the kids playing in a mini World Cup.