Waterloo’s Emergency Services Career Camp Ignites Youth Passion for Rescue Professions


This past weekend, a brilliant opportunity for the youth to delve into the world of emergency services unfolded. An exciting camp was organized primarily for teenagers aged 15 to 19 by Waterloo Fire Rescue, Waterloo Regional Police, and paramedic services at the esteemed Emergency Services Training and Research Centre in Waterloo.

Deputy Fire Chief with Waterloo Fire Services, Sandy Van Solm, shared her proud sentiment, “Now they can actually use those skills that they’ve learned.”

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For some, such as Grace Grieco, the Emergency Services Career Camp held much more appeal and utility than what they had initially anticipated. “They’ve really opened my eyes, and seeing other people also wanting to pursue this career, and being helpful, makes it all that much more compelling,” she expressed.

Grieco has harboured a desire to become a firefighter since she was in ninth grade. When she witnessed trucks or any other emergency services on the go, they appealed to her as being “so cool.” She shared her yearning to participate in such stimulating, commendable activities, and with many family friends being firefighters, she derived substantial insights from them.

At the Emergency Services Career Camp, Grieco, along with other participants, got a direct, hands-on experience with the tasks that would be expected of them in such crucial roles.

Another kindred spirit, Maximus Fitzgerald, found this camp the perfect chance to fulfill his wish to help people. Furthermore, fellow participant Connor Goebel shared, “It’s really opened my eyes; I really enjoy firefighting now too.”

Matthew Halliday, acting as the Camp facilitator, shared the principle aim of the camp; to instill emergency readiness amongst the participants and inspire the burgeoning generation of heroes. “They can learn either extrication from the firefighter services, first aid skills from paramedic services, [or] evidence gathering from our forensic identification branch,” he stated elegantly.

Adding on a more physically and mentally challenging side, the assembled group, consisting of around 25 young men and women, participated in simulated rescues and similarly grueling exercises.

Deputy Fire Chief Sandy Van Solm emphasized the importance of educating these young minds about the career paths in emergency services early on, further assisting them in choosing their education path.

The camp was also significant for Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS), which currently is on its recruitment campaign. Halliday stated that the key to recruitment was to build relationships with youths and give them behind-the-scenes insights into emergency services, shedding light on many of the vital services they provide.

The youth demonstrated a newly ignited passion, with many of them resolving to make a large-scale impact within the emergency services scenario. “Just being around these types of people who are in the force, it’s very encouraging to get that experience and just think, ‘Wow, I really can do this,’” Grieco excitedly conveyed.

Having achieved a successful run, the camp organizers aim to conduct the camp annually, thereby enabling more youngsters to get an authentic experience of being an emergency service worker on the frontlines.