Operation Purple Camp

“Campers are extremely respectful and helpful in other ways, too,” she notes. “There’s no shortage of volunteers to wipe lunch tables, sweep, and put away toys–even though we never ask for such volunteers. They seem to be much more aware of these sorts of things. I’m sure this is a result of their experiences with deployment. They’ve had to help Mom or Dad at home with other siblings, so when they make a mess, they realize someone has to clean it up! I don’t think the average 9-year-old thinks about that. Operation Purple campers are–in some ways–mature beyond their years.”

Look Around

Camp directors, staff and counselors don’t need to host a camp to make a difference in the lives of these kids–there are other roles we can play to support military families. Though children of service members are part of the unique military culture, they spend most of their time in your community. There are more than 700,000 National Guard and Reserve children who might never live on a military installation. These families not only rely on the military network, but look within their local community for support. But to reach military youth, we have to know who they are and understand them. Encourage staff members and volunteers to seek out the military families or children in regular weeks of camp, and recognize the challenges they might be facing. For ways that caring adults in military kids’ lives can better understand those challenges, download the association’s toolkit at www.militaryfamily.org/toolkits.

Waz and her staff members learned lessons from the camp that they apply throughout the summer:

“The lessons we learn … reach beyond our programs for military kids. The program serves as a poignant reminder that there are other kids out there dealing with stressful situations. When we have large school groups, we may have a child whose parent just deployed. In the same group, there may also be a child dealing with divorce, a child whose parent has a terminal illness, and a ’new kid’ struggling to make new friends,” she relates. “We don’t know what each child is going through, but it is probably safe to assume that many are feeling some level of stress. This program prepares us to teach all kids coping mechanisms to deal with stress, no matter what that stress might be.”

“The program also brings together our staff, and gives us a new source of pride. All of us here at Crow’s Neck are ’in it for the kids.’ The unique environment of [the] camp allows us to see our impact on the kids a little more. They’re special kids. I envy their strength and courage. They have big hearts and they’re going through a lot, but they’re still kids. It is important for us to help them learn to deal with their stress and understand that they’re not alone. Most importantly, we should listen and give them as much attention as possible. And don’t forget that camp is a chance for these kids to relieve stress, meet new friends, and have fun!”

The National Military Family Association is a nonprofit organization committed to strengthening and protecting the families of the men and women currently serving, retired, wounded, or fallen. It provides families with information, works to get them the benefits they deserve, and offers programs that improve their lives. To learn more, visit www.MilitaryFamily.org.

Bailey Bernius is a public relations specialist for the National Military Family Association. He can be reached via e-mail at bbernius@militaryfamily.org.

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  3. Collaborative Programming
  4. Signs of Life & Warning Signs
  5. On The Ball Year-Round

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