River Runners launch 2018 trip

Acting police chief Jon Bergen addresses the River Runners Tuesday (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The River Runners are off on another adventure.

The annual program, which brings together about 20 youth and adult chaperones from the Prince Albert Police Service, sees participants complete a day of team building, a two-day First Aid/CPR course and a three-day river trip using canoes and kayaks.

The team building and first aid courses are done. The canoe trip kicked off early Tuesday morning, as participants gathered in the Prince Albert police parking lot. The group will drive to Fort Carlton and paddle back the 100 km to Prince Albert. They expect to arrive back in Prince Albert Thursday afternoon, landing at the boat launch at about 4 p.m.

The program is community funded and presented in partnership with the police and the health region.

Community partners and acting police chief Jon Bergen came by Tuesday morning to see the group off.

“it’s a great opportunity for (the kids) and the police service volunteering their time to do this,” said Ross Butterwick, president of the High Noon Optimist Club, one of the program’s supporters.

“(The police) usually don’t have any trouble finding volunteers, because it seems like it’s a good, fun trip from them. They’re doing two trips this year, so there are lots of kids involved.”

The program was started by Staff Sgt. Dave Schluff as an initiative to reach out to youth in the community and give them positive interactions with police officers. It’s a tradition officers like Sgt. Brendan Mudry, one of the officers chaperoning the trip this year, are happy to continue.

“It is a massive undertaking to get something like this off the ground. Hopefully, we’ll roll out with 10 kids here and everything will go well.”

This group of ten is the first to make the journey this year. A second group will head out later in the season.

Mudry thanked the many community sponsors who stepped up to help fund this year’s expedition.

‘We can’t make these trips happen without public assistance,” he said.

One of those sponsors is the police association. President Darryl Hickie said the group is happy to do what it can

“it’s for a great cause. We teach these young men and women that we’re not just police officers, we’re people,” he said.

“A lot of them will be future leaders in our province, our cities and our communities because of this.”

One of the participants who left Tuesday was Carter Altstadt. He packed Monday morning and double checked everything the night before.

“I’ve been really excited for the last few weeks, maybe a month,” he said.

While his family has a canoe, Altstadt said they don’t take it out very much. He has, though, paddled at camp.

He said he expects the amount of time paddling to be the biggest challenge. Still, he said he wasn’t nervous.

“I’m excited,” he said, “Really excited to go camp and be with all of my friends.”

Mudry is excited too.

“We’re giving an opportunity to kids they wouldn’t normally have, and (police and bylaw officers) can interact (with) them. We maybe wouldn’t have that opportunity in such a positive environment. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We’ve got ten great kids, and they all seem pretty excited to head out.”