Building Camp Discovery
In the beginning, the vision for creating the Collier County Junior Deputies League (CCJDL) grew from a simple idea Sheriff E. A. “Doug” Hendry developed in 1961:
“To communicate with kids, start young.”
Reach out to them in the schools; connect with them in the classrooms and on the playground; appeal to their best instincts; demonstrate the many roles an officer plays; and engage them as Junior Deputies in helping their communities be better places to live. So law enforcement officers began visiting the schools to speak to 4th and 5th graders. An annual two-night camping trip for Junior Deputies was added, allowing officers and school kids to interact in a fun, informal setting.
In 1976, Sheriff Aubrey Rogers moved CCJDL to a charitable status, strengthened the Board with renowned community leaders, invited girls and expanded the program to offer more opportunities for kids and their families to engage with Collier County Deputies. Later, a trip to the County Fair for all Collier County fourth graders was added, as well as, a yearly fishing outing for the entire family. But Sheriff Hendry’s simple idea remains the heart of the program:
“Investing in the youth of today pays future dividends”
In the early 1960s, when CCJDL was founded, Naples was a small, simple town. But over the years, as Collier County’s population skyrocketed, the Junior Deputies became a more diverse group of kids, with diverse issues. For many Junior Deputies, the activities aren’t just fun; they are completely new experiences that, because of socioeconomic obstacles, these children might not otherwise enjoy.
Establishing bonds between youth and law enforcement is even more relevant today. The bullying we see in so many schools, the senseless youth-on-youth violence so many communities experience, the frequent clashes with police, can be reduced by developing these relationships early.
Collier County’s incidence of juvenile delinquency consistently has been lower than that of the rest of Florida and the U.S. as a whole. The Sheriff’s Office credits the CCJDL programs.
Over the last five decades, CCJDL has worked with more than 100,000 4th- and 5th-graders. These are critical years during which children grow less dependent on adults; are subjected to enormous peer pressure; begin to form lifelong habits of thought and discipline; and speed headlong toward puberty. These are also the years in which relationships are forged that can last a lifetime, and social values are firmly embedded.
Today, CCJDL continues to work closely with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO). Together they form a powerful team for Collier County’s youth. The CCSO provides programming and personnel. The CCJDL Board supports the work, provides the governing structure, owns and manages Camp Discovery.
Three decades after Sheriff Hendry implemented his vision, CCJDL bought a tract of land nine miles and just 20 minutes southeast of Naples. Situated on 33 acres with an 11 acre lake, CCJDL found the perfect site for multiple Junior Deputy activities. The long-term dream add amenities to Camp Discovery, with multiple campsites and an expansive open-air lodge.
Thanks to the foresight of the CCJDL Board, development rights were sold to the neighboring Hacienda Lakes community, generating over $800,000 in income for a future endowment fund. Those funds, along with a generous memorial gift made by the Salley family, and commitments from the entire CCJDL Board, have allowed construction to start on Camp Discovery.
And now it’s our turn to complete Camp Discovery. We are raising $5 million to finish the work. A list of naming opportunities can be found by clicking here and your pledge can be made securely online by clicking here. Please know that gifts of all sizes are warmly welcomed and if you would like more information or would like a tour of Camp Discovery, please contact Ellie Krier, Executive Director, at 239-262-0015.