REDWOOD Operation Military Kids Camp may have looked like a typical summer camp with swimming, camp fires, and hiking, but what set it apart was that it included just military children.
Held last week at 4-H Camp Wabasso, 43101 County Route 21, the camp welcomed youths from throughout the north country, state and even as far as Georgia. While some curriculum is taught, much of the campers time was spent bonding over similar issues of living in a military lifestyle.
The thing this camp is designed to do is for military youth to get a traditional camp experience, but more importantly with kids like themselves, said Stephanie A. Graf, youth and family development program leader for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. We did this one exercise where they got into groups of five, and they had to write down places theyve lived. Some ended up living in the same school district and didnt know it.
She said children might feel isolated if their peers cannot relate to military-related issues that may be going on at home, school or elsewhere. Operation Military Kids Camp, which ended Friday, was a place for all 100 participants to reflect on just that, Mrs. Graf said.
Campers KatarinaFaye M. Monell, 12, and Leah N. Rink, 13, both of Watertown, and Aurora T. Sharrock, 14, Clay, said they enjoyed the unity and relaxation during camp. On Friday, they got to eat meals-ready-to-eat, which typically are eaten by military members who are in high-intensity situations. On average, each MRE has 1,250 calories. The girls tried the beef stew and garlic mashed potatoes one, and while the main dish wasnt a hit, the French vanilla cappuccino and conversation that came along with the meal was.
They described being military dependents as always waiting for someone to come home. Aurora said while her dad doesnt deploy with his job, he works long hours.
Its kind of like having your parents divorced, Leah said. One parent is home and the other is not.
Her father now is retired from the Army.
KatarinaFaye said her father, who is in the Army and stationed at Fort Drum, just left Thursday for a monthlong training in Virginia.
Mrs. Graf said Operation Military Kids Camp gives an opportunity for those three girls, and many others, to connect and have a mutual understanding of difficult times they may be going through as a military dependent.
She said Camp Wabasso has offered the same camp before. Because of federal budget cuts, only eight states were fully funded this year. New York was one of them, at $38,000. That money covers the cost of camp per child.
Camp concluded Friday with performances from the 10th Mountain Division Bands brass ensemble, the 10 Degrees Brass Band.