While some kids spend summer vacations with eyes fixated on the television or fingers glued to the video game controller, 112 Haverhill children are doing anything but.

The children, ages 7 to 13, are enrolled in the D.A.R.E. Days summer camp, and they’re playing dodge ball, team games, running and laughing with peers in a safe, monitored environment. They get lunch and snacks provided through the public school system’s free lunch program and donations from Pepsi and Frito-Lay.

The kids also take chartered buses every Friday to places like York’s Wild Kingdom in Maine, Canobie Lake Park in Salem, N.H. and the Museum of Science in Boston. They even get to attend a Lowell Spinners game.

The best part is that it’s all free because it’s supported by a federal Community Development Block Grant that D.A.R.E. Officer Bill Alvarado applies for every year. Alvarado likes the kids to call him Officer Bill so they feel more comfortable around him.

“They don’t get to see us (the police) and know us on a real personal level,” he explained. “That’s why I have them call me Officer Bill — they can connect a lot easier on a first name basis.”

The D.A.R.E program, which has been in Haverhill for 14 years, goes into fifth-grade classrooms and teaches about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and violence.

D.A.R.E. campers are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis, so Alvarado starts getting calls from eager parents in the middle of winter who want to make sure their child has a spot.

“They love the program ... the activities we do ... the field trips,” Alvarado said. “And they bond a lot with my counselors. It’s like a family.”

Alvarado, a father of three, said D.A.R.E. camp means a lot to participants but also to the police department because it keeps kids off the streets and matches a friendly face with the men and women in blue.

He said many kids first interact with police when they’re in trouble, making police seem like the “bad guy.” Hopefully through D.A.R.E. and the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) for seventh-graders, that can change.

“It’s very important because now they know police are nice people,” he said. “When we go on field trips, I make sure to wear my regular clothes. When the kids see me dressed like them, and with my pierced ear, they think ‘this guy’s okay. He’s one of us.’ We have to show them that police officers are normal people.”

See slideshow for photos.

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