By Pfc. Phillip Adam Turner, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsSeptember 4, 2008
When summer hits and school lets out, parents can be sure of two things; their children will have plenty of energy to burn, and they as parents will spend countless hours trying to find new and entertaining ways to keep their children from uttering those famous words, "I'm bored!"
The pressure on Soldiers and spouses who have a significant other deployed to the front lines is a special one. Not only do they have their normal everyday routines and work, but their battle to maintain a normal sense of existence for themselves, and their children during this time, can be an everyday struggle.
It is with this in mind that the Armed Services YMCA and the Sierra Club teamed up to provide a free, week-long summer camp designed to give children of Army Families a place to be kids.
"[The Sierra Club and ASYMCA] wanted to start a camp for children of deployed Soldiers, deploying Soldiers, or a service member who just got back from a deployment, and for Fort Hood that's almost everybody," said Carol Pinkerton, volunteer worker for the camp. "The Sierra Club wanted this to be an environmental camp, a lot of outdoor activities, just a place for these children to be around other kids and have a lot of fun," she added.
From nature walks, tug-o'-war, relays, team sports, and swimming pools, to hot dogs, chicken fingers, and 'mac n cheese,' there was something that every child who participated enjoyed.
"[The camp] has been more than I expected," said Hunter Bussell, camp participant. "It's been a lot of fun. I really liked riding the horses, the swing (zip line). Oh, and archery, I really liked the archery!"
ASYMCA partnered with the Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children, in Youngsport, Texas for this year's camp. Settled on 25 acres of deep Texas wood lines and river beds of the Lampasas River, the grounds contain a movie theater, basketball courts, cafeteria, cottages to house the campers and plenty of nature and scenery to soak in.
'The rooms are really nice. The facilities are really nice, and they protect your children." Pinkerton said. "The ASYMCA stepped up, you just can't say enough good things about this program or any of the other programs they do for us."
Along with all the physical and fun activities the camp offered for children, the camp counselors, and volunteers didn't forget that there is also a chance for social and emotional growth as well.
"Cabin Time", one of the daily activities, allowed the children to rest, as well as share their views and thoughts on anything- from that day's events, home sickness and dealing with the absence of a deployed parent as well.
"These children being together are paramount to them getting through [a parents deployment], Pinkerton said. "Just to know that I am not the only one... if I'm a little kid and I am going to the FRG meeting every month, and I see angry people, and serious faces in uniform, its probably a little scary and I don't understand. But, here at this camp you see them talking, 'Where's your dad' He's gone' Oh mine is too.' So, they can talk like that; there's no repercussions for them to express their feelings," she added
The main focus of the ASYMCA is to serve and support the military. Not just the Army, but all branches of service, and this camp is just one of the many ways they show that support.
"Everything that I have ever seen them do is focused on these kids, giving them something fun to do. Safe, learning activities, and just really try to help them get through these deployments, which stack up now," said Pinkerton. "There is so little turn around time between deployments now that you really have to get out there and take advantage, they include single Soldiers, kids, teenagers, it's just been a really big help, and they are still growing as the word gets out. They are such a huge asset to the Fort Hood family."
For more information on this camp and other ASYMCA programs, contact your Family Readiness Group.