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Lining up with the big check are Lt. David Sacco, left, Officer John LeClair, Adams Coop President Joseph Truskowski Jr., Williamstown Officer Tania Hernandez; back, Police Director Michael Cozzaglio, left, Williamstown Savings President John Law, MountainOne President Stephen Crowe, Mass. Bankers Association President Daniel Forte and Officer Francis Maruco.

Bankers Throw $5K Help Line to ROPES Program

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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A $5,000 grant will help keep the ROPES program at Windsor Lake zipping along. Left, Mass. Bankers Association President Daniel J. Forte offers up the little, and real, check.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — More than 3,000 kids have crawled, climbed and zipped through the trees at Windsor Lake over the past decade thanks to the efforts of local law enforcement.

The ROPES, or Respecting Other People Encouraging Self-Esteem, program has offered an outlet for area middle-schoolers to spend a week in the outdoors overcoming challenges and bonding together.

It started in 1996 as a summer Drug Abuse Resistance Education day camp; when state funding was lost, it became ROPES — and was adopted by the North Adams Police Department, whose officers, along with other area police, have worked hard to raise the funds to keep it going.

"We're the only ROPES course in Berkshire County," said Lt. David Sacco, one of the program's founders with Officer Francis Maruco. "We've kept it going ... We'll close the day we have to start charging."

That won't be anytime soon. The program's efforts in engaging children were rewarded with a $5,000 check from the Massachusetts Bankers Association on Wednesday at a reception at the police station. 

Daniel J. Forte, president of the association, said banking members nominate worthy causes, which are then voted on by area. ROPES received the highest number of votes, with the Pittsfield Family YMCA also earning a $5,000 grant.

"This their way of doing good," said Forte of the banking group's 200 members, adding that the MBA Charitable Foundation has dispersed grants totaling $112,500 this year across the state. The association, established the same year as ROPES, has contributed more than $1 million since.

"You've always been there for us," Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco told local bankers Stephen G. Crowe of MountainOne Financial Partners, John C. Law of Williamstown Savings Bank and Joseph Truskowski Jr. of Adams Cooperative Bank.

That prompted a laugh from Crowe. "We remember when you were there for us," he said, referring to an attempted bank robbery in 2008 from MountainOne's Hoosac Bank.

The bankers were shown a presentation of the some of the activities at the weeklong day camps held twice a summer. In addition to the high and low ropes courses, the camp includes climbing walls, zip line and obstacle course.

Officer John LeClair said about 300 kids go through the camp each summer now and are entirely funded through donations and volunteers. Each child receives a T-shirt and lunch; and, each year, something changes on the course to keep things fresh.

Officers LeClair, Maruco and Sacco chat with John Law of Williamstown Savings.
It's run entirely by volunteers; fundraising has included this year's family day and hot dog- and doughnut-eating contests. "Every penny is returned to back to the kids in one form or other," said LeClair.

The camp can have a major effect on children, most of whom can't afford sports camps and other activities, said Sacco. "Some of the kids have come back for eight years; some of them come back from college [to volunteer] after attending since sixth grade."

LeClair said it can be a case of forcing kids out of their shells and getting them working with others.

"It's designed so you can't do it all by yourself. It's teachable moments ... it's OK to ask for help," he said. "Parents tell us about the positive changes they see in their child during their week with us."
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