More than 35 Kentucky military families spent quality time together during this summer's Operation: Military Kids Family Camps. Members of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service hosted the camps at Lake Cumberland 4-H Camp and the Life Adventure Center of the Bluegrass.
The camps were provided free of charge to all families. The only requirement were for families to have an Active Duty, National Guard or Reserve service member in any branch of the military and be stationed or live in Kentucky. The purpose of the camps was to provide an opportunity where the whole family could come together and have a healing family weekend and spend quality time together. One family member stated, "This is a great thing for military kids, I have missed so much, birthdays and holidays ... this was a good opportunity to spend quality time with family."
The first camp held June 11 - 13 at the Lake Cumberland 4-H Camp allowed families to stay together in cabins. Families participated in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities including canoeing, swimming, tie-dying, outdoor cooking, Wii fun with fitness, high and low ropes challenge courses, and scrapbooking.
The second camp was held July 9 - 11 at the Life Adventure Center and was offered for more experienced campers. Families experienced a more rustic way of camping by sleeping in tents for the whole weekend. Families participated in high and low ropes challenge courses, equine programs, fishing, wildlife programs, a hayride, hot air balloon rides, and more. See highlights from the second camp at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_xi3qm_NPY
Older youth at both camps had an opportunity to participate in a shortened "Speak Out for Military Kids" program. Youth who participated had the chance to talk with one another about their experiences of being a military kid and the challenges that they face. They also had the opportunity to prepare and eat a "Meal-Ready-to-Eat" (MRE) that their military family member may eat while in the field or deployed.
In addition to the camps, the Operation: Military Kids (OMK) grant provides training and presentations across the state for those who work with military personnel either through volunteering, Extension or on a military base. They also distribute Hero Packs, backpacks filled with a variety of items including crafts, journals and letter writing supplies, to children who have a deployed family member. In addition, OMK offers a Speak Out for Military Kids program for older youth in which they can educate others about issues, stresses and challenges that affect military children. A Mobile Technology Lab is available for loan across the state for programs or events involving military children and families. More information about the Kentucky Operation: Military Kids grant and upcoming events can be found under state information on the program's national Web site at http://www.operationmilitarykids.org/.