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Forward, Not Forgetting

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Erica Aguilar, a surviving spouse who attended Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) Kid's Camp with her children this year, explained, The kids are already counting down the days until camp next year. Following the death of her husband, Sr. Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar, U.S. Border Patrol, on Jan. 19, 2008, Erica wanted to ensure that she was helping her children grieve and heal from the tragedy of losing their father. I talked with other surviving spouses, and they all said, You've got to take your kids to C.O.P.S. Kids Summer Camp. So that s what I did, she said.

When we got to camp, the kids felt at home; they felt the love and instant emotional support, explained Aguilar, who attended the Salvation Army Lake Camp in East Troy, Wis., this summer with her two children, Luis, 8, and Arianna, 6. Aguilar describes the camp atmosphere: You re not the only one. The people around you get it. We are all trying to move on without forgetting.

The camp was of real benefit to the children. Luis Jr. really opened up this year at camp. Last year he was very introverted and didn t talk during counseling, but this year he told his whole story and was able to explain his emotions. I saw him put his arm around another little boy who didn t want to talk during group and say, It's OK. He has truly become a compassionate little boy. Aguilar said one of her proudest moments at camp was when my daughter told the other girls around her that, Daddy is a border patrol agent in heaven, as she sat drawing a picture of her father as an angel.

The camp is also of benefit to the surviving spouses and guardians of these children because they learn coping skills to help their children heal. I'm always searching for a way to help our family heal. Anything that will help is what I m after, Aguilar said. C.O.P.S. helps me prepare for my future and my kid s future.

C.O.P.S. Kids Summer Camp is held for the surviving children, ages 6 14, and their parent or legal guardian of America s fallen law enforcement heroes killed in the line of duty. This year 240 campers attended camp: 125 surviving children and 81 surviving parents or guardians.

Summer camp provides family interaction, camp activities, grief counseling, relaxation and fun. Erica s favorite part of camp is the physical activities, where the parents and children get to work together. We are able to laugh again, Aguilar said. I don t have to worry about dinner, laundry or dishes. I can just be a kid again. My children see that mom can have fun, too, and that it s OK to laugh.

C.O.P.S. is a not-for-profit organization with a membership of more than 15,000 surviving families. To obtain more information about C.O.P.S. or its programs, visit www.nationalcops.org. Contact Marketing Coordinator Brooke McKay at brooke_mckay@nationalcops.org.

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