BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- Northwest Ohio has always been a hub of activity for Ohio's "Operation: Military Kids" program since it started in 2005, particularly in the summertime during overnight OMK camps on Kelleys Island.
Now, the program -- for children and teens in military families -- has a local liaison to help plan activities in the area, thanks to a $20,000 grant from the national OMK initiative. Nationally, OMK is a partnership of U.S. Army Child, Youth and School Services and National 4-H Headquarters; in Ohio, Ohio State University Extension's 4-H Youth Development and Ohio National Guard Family Readiness and Warrior Support programs are primary partners, with many organizational and corporate sponsors supporting Ohio OMK.
Steve Arnold, a retired electrical engineer and Navy veteran, has volunteered with the state's OMK program for two years and has been a 4-H club advisor for 20 years. In his new role with OMK, Arnold is responsible for coordinating programs in a 22-county area stretching from Williams County down to Morrow County. The area has about 4,500 children and teens with parents in the military, including active military and reserves.
Brett zumFelde, Ohio's OMK program manager, said the grant was offered to extend the reach of OMK in states such as Ohio that already have a robust program.
Arnold has some specific ideas he wants to put in place, particularly expanding the camping opportunities available in the area.
"I'd like to get an OMK camp going at 4-H Camp Palmer in Fayette (in Fulton County)," Arnold said. "It has 167 acres of rolling hills, wetlands, a shooting sports range, high ropes and low ropes -- all sorts of things to keep kids busy. It might take a while, but it could become as big and popular as OMK's camps on Kelleys Island."
Arnold has also become an advisor to the Military Teen Advisory Board, currently associated with the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard in Toledo, but Arnold plans to work with the group to expand the board to include teens from all branches of the military. The teens will assist with an upcoming "Hero Camp," a daylong program at the Imagination Station science center in Toledo.
Arnold, who also has been the organizational advisor for the Wood County 4-H Shooting Sports Club since its inception four years ago, said he also hopes to introduce interested OMK youth to shooting sports. "Ohio's 4-H shooting sports program is second only to Texas in the number of 4-H kids who participate, and it's the state's fastest-growing 4-H program," Arnold said. "The goal isn't to turn kids into marksmen, but to use shooting sports as a way to teach them life skills."
For more information, see http://operationmilitarykids.ohio4h.org or "like" "Ohio Operation: Military Kids" and "Ohio Operation: Military Kids Northwest" on Facebook.
Also, for information about Ohio's OMK camp programs, watch:
And for background information on OMK in Ohio, see this 2009 video:
Editor: Counties served by the Northwest Ohio OMK program are: Allen, Crawford, Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Huron, Lucas, Marion, Morrow, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Van Wert, Williams, Wood and Wyandot.