Cops and CampersA new tradition is developing at Spruce Row Campground & RV Park in Ithaca, N.Y. From June 23 to June 25 the park will host the second annual Cops and Campers wellness retreat for first responders and their families, according to a press release.

Cops and Campers was founded by retired police officer Eric Reynolds after an unsettling encounter he experienced at another campground in 2021. There he was asked to take down a flag flying on his campsite in support of law enforcement. Reynolds, having been shot in the line of duty in 2012, suffers from PTSD and has made it his mission in life to help other first responders who are struggling. He and his family travel the country as full-time RVers to raise awareness and share their stories with others.

The Cops and Campers wellness retreat at Spruce Row Campground & RV Park includes a bonfire, socializing, a family-friendly movie night, guest speakers, visits from local police agencies and live music by local band Tailor Made. The event website, www.copsandcampers.com, promotes Cops and Campers as an opportunity for first responders and their families to share experiences and build connections in a beautiful and peaceful setting.

According to park owner Scott Sherwood, he became involved with Cops and Campers in 2021 when he read about Reynold’s flag incident.

“I saw the story on social media and invited Eric and his family to Spruce Row for a week to stay with us. We had incredible community support and many people stopped by to hear his story,” Sherwood said. “Eric came up with the idea for Cops and Campers, and since we had been the first to reach out to him, he decided to do the event here.”

Reynolds writes on the website, “Bringing to light the impact of PTSD and the health effects of our line of work may help first responders overcome the stigma that accompanies this affliction.”

During the first Cops and Campers event in 2022, documentarian Patrick Shaver recorded footage for a film produced by Reynolds and Sherwood and available on YouTube.com at https://youtu.be/oGh-cpR5dzs (Cops and Campers Documentary Film). The 32-minute film explores the evolution of Cops and Campers from the flag incident to the first-weekend event, celebrates the personal connections made and includes interviews with Reynolds, Sherwood and cops and campers in attendance.

In a sit-down interview filmed for the documentary, cop and camper Dan Bechtold shares what the event means to him.

“It’s those simple times in between the chaos that help with dealing with tragedy or dealing with hardship. It’s the connection with each other that’s just basic human relationship and it’s just such an important part of this whole thing. It’s a time to relax and enjoy the company of people who can relate to where you are.”

According to Sherwood, “The Cops and Campers event is geared toward law enforcement and families, but last year we had emergency services involved as well. All are welcome.”

For more information about Cops and Campers at Spruce Row Campground & RV Park, visit www.copsandcampers.com, and click EVENTS for a flyer and the link to reserve a campsite or on-site rental unit for the weekend of June 23-25.