By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur | 124th Fighter Wing, Idaho Air National GuardAugust 19, 2019
McCALL, Idaho -- After a week away from their parents, 115 children of Idaho Army and Air National Guard members not only survived the "Survivor"-themed summer camp, they thrived.
The event-filled camp, held Aug 12-16, was designed to build resiliency and strength in the youth of military families.
"This camp is a small token of our appreciation for these children," said Brig. Gen. Farin Schwartz, assistant adjutant general-Army, Idaho Army National Guard. "We realize that we impact the lives of the youth and appreciate the sacrifice of each and every one of these children, and what they do to support their mom or dad when they are away."
Idaho National Guard Child and Youth Programs invite children from families in the Idaho National Guard to a winter camp and a summer camp each year.
This year's summer camp theme was "Survivor - Camp vs. The Camper" held at Quaker Hill Camp in McCall.
Activities included archery games, art classes, creative STEM challenges, inner reflection classes, lakeside water activities, peer pressure and stress management class, ropes team-building course, team-building races, and a zip line confidence-building course.
"All activities here are fun, but they are based on strength and resiliency training," said Lt. Col. Douglas Uphoff, IDNG family program director. "The parents of these children could be at risk for deployment at any time. We are enabling the children to hopefully cope with the stress of their loved ones leaving."
Older children had the opportunity to volunteer as teen leaders. The child and youth programs are designed with opportunities for youth to gain leadership skills, feel valued, and interact with their peers.
"I love this camp, I have made a lot of friends," said Gabbie Barton, a participating child at the camp. "I have learned that I am strong."
Many of these military children shared common experiences with each other during the activities and know each other from past events.
"This camp has been so fun and I learned a lot," said Lillyan Lowery, whose mother serves in the Idaho Army National Guard. "I have made all of these new friends that I can hang out with after, like her, both of our moms are in the Army together."
It doesn't matter how long the deployment is; the goal is for campers to build networks, including other children with a similar background. Children at the camp know that their newly bonded friends are also going through the same situation and might have similar issues.
"It's not easy for children and spouses to have us be in the military," said Schwartz. "But it is very necessary for us to go out and do what is needed in the defense of our nation."