Editor: More photos from the July Operation Purple Camp are available. Contact Martha Filipic at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Ohios soldiers are deployed into active duty, they often leave children behind.
Ã¢â¬ÅI am amazed at how hard the kids take it, said Dona Leonhard, a graduate associate with Ohio 4-H Youth Development and Operation: Military Kids, a federal program launched in April that targets 20 states with high deployment rates. Ã¢â¬ÅThe camp we had in July really enlightened me about how stressful a situation it is for these kids.
The weeklong Operation Purple Camp at the end of July, sponsored by the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the National Military Families Association, was open to 138 youths with deployed parents. Ã¢â¬ÅThere was a long waiting list -- they stopped taking names when it hit 35, Leonhard said. Thats why we decided to offer additional camps this fall.
The fall camps will be run by Ohio 4-H through its Operation: Military Kids program and the Ohio National Guard Family Readiness Program, Leonhard said. Preferential registration for the camps will be given to any youth with a deployed parent from any branch of the military; any remaining slots will be open to 4-H members and other youth based on the date the registration is received. The July camp attracted military kids from Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Indiana and Michigan, but the fall camps are limited to Ohioans, Leonhard said.
The three camps are:
- Weekend camp at 4-H Camp Ohio in St. Louisville in Licking County, Sept. 16-18 (application deadline Sept. 7), for youths 9-18 years old. The camp highlights include a high ropes course, nature programs and archery.
- Weekend camp at Kelleys Island 4-H Camp in Erie County, Sept. 30-Oct. 2 (application deadline Sept. 16) for youths 9-18 years old. The camp highlights include a low rope course, ferry rides and archery.
- A day-long camp at Sweet Apple Farm in Vincent, Ohio, in Washington County, on Oct. 29 (application deadline Oct. 15) for youths 5-15 years old. The camp highlights include a corn maze and hay rides.
Registration forms and details are available online at the Ohio National Guard Family Readiness Programs Web site at http://www.ong.ohio.gov/family/.
Ã¢â¬ÅThe main reason were doing this is to make sure kids who have deployed parents realize that there are other kids in their situation, and offer them an opportunity to interact with each other, Leonhard said. Ã¢â¬ÅI did a before-and-after assessment at Operation Purple Camp, and the No. 1 comment from the kids was that Ã¢â¬ËI learned there are other kids out there like me. These peer relationships for kids are a big thing.
Another reason is to help establish positive relationships between kids and caring adults -- a core 4-H value, Leonhard said. The counselors at the camps will be members of Collegiate 4-H, all of whom were camp counselors when in high school, and who will receive special training for the types of issues that might arise with military kids.
All of the camps will include programming on Speak Out for Military Kids, in which interested kids will put together information to share in their communities and their schools to help people become aware of what its like to be part of a military family and how they can support military families.
In addition, the fall camps will incorporate the Ã¢â¬ÅCharacter Counts curriculum into its activities, Leonhard said. Were not going to sit down and expect the kids to talk about how theyre feeling, she said. Ã¢â¬ÅThat can be hard on kids. But we will incorporate the six pillars of character outlined in Character Counts -- trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship -- into the activities were offering. We might talk about trustworthiness during archery, for example. Or about respect when were taking a nature walk.
The camps are free, but a $10 registration fee covers the cost of a personalized camp T-shirt. Leonhard hopes sponsors will step forward with grants to cover costs. Ã¢â¬ÅWe are using funds from Operation: Military Kids to cover our costs, but the grant runs through October 2006 and we dont want to use all of the money this year if we can help it, she said. Anyone interested in donating towards the camps may contact Leonhard at (614) 292-3758 or email@example.com or Sue Ann Carroll, Ohio National Guard State Youth Coordinator, at (614) 336-7456 or (800) 589-9914 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caption for photo: Campers at Operation Purple Camp in July assemble items for Hero Packs, put together for other youths who have deployed parents. Hero Packs are backpacks filled with items designed to help children and teens deal with stress associated with a parent being away from home, and others to help them keep connected with their deployed parent.