Hirsute officers raise funds for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta

MIDDLEBURY — The face of Addison County’s law enforcement community will be more recognizable this week after having been shorn of a month’s worth of whiskers — all grown for the benefit of a camp that helps very sick children.
Many officers representing the Middlebury, Bristol and Vergennes police forces, along with deputies with the Addison County Sheriff’s Department, recently took part in a challenge called “deer camp beards for cancer.” Participants were granted a temporary reprieve from their respective agencies’ grooming standards and were allowed to grow beards through deer hunting season — provided they each contributed at least $30 to Camp Ta-Kum-Ta. Based in South Hero, Camp Ta-Kum-Ta provides great recreational experiences for children battling cancer, and their families.
A collection of shaggy lawmen gathered at the Middlebury Police Department on Friday, Dec. 9, to pose for a group mug shot and learn that their bristles had swept in a grand total of $1,985 for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta. Lindsey Longe, director of development for the camp, said the much-needed funds will fuel the non-profit’s operating budget.
“I just wanted to come up and say thank you,” Longe said as she received envelopes of cash and/or checks from the participating departments.
“I’m really, really grateful.”
Longe shared a special thanks for Middlebury police Officer Darrin Hinterneder, who came up with the beard benefit idea. He got a bunch of his colleagues to participate — including Chief Tom Hanley — and then reached out to other local law enforcement agencies. More than 20 officers countywide ultimately signed on.
The beards were gone by Monday, Dec. 12.
“It was a great response from the community,” said Hinterneder, who believes the officers inspired some members of the public to embrace the cause with their own private donations to Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, launched in 1984 to serve Vermont and northern New York children between the ages 7-17, at no cost to their families.
Each summer Camp Ta-Kum-Ta tries to squeeze as many life experiences and memories as possible into one week, according to its online literature. Along with traditional camp activities such as swimming, athletics, ropes course, and arts and crafts, Ta-Kum-Ta offers rock climbing expeditions, hot-air balloon rides, formal dances and lake cruises.
The camp is an independent, tax-exempt organization. Thanks to the community support and approximately 120 staff volunteers, Ta-Kum-Ta has expanded from its one week summer camp to offering programs year round. It has an annual budget of around $900,000, derived from grants, foundations, private donations and from around 70 events each year — now including Addison County’s “deer camp beards for kids with cancer.”
Hinterneder is already planning on growing his beard again next deer season, and hopes to expand the number of participants.
“We will hopefully be able to grow this bigger next year,” Hinterneder said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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