‘Operation Purple’ Offers Summer Fun to Military Kids
By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2009 The National Military Family Association will host more than 9,000 military children at “Operation Purple” youth camps across America this year.
These free, weeklong, overnight camps are meant to bring children of deployed servicemembers, ages 7 to 17, together for an exciting and memorable experience. Camps will be held in 62 locations and 37 states and territories across the United States.
“We understand these are trying times for our youngest heroes,” Michelle Joyner, NMFA’s director of communications, said. “Operation Purple Camps bring together kids in similar situations and teach them coping skills to better deal with their feelings. At the same time, the camp helps build their confidence by introducing new experiences like learning to be stewards of the environment.”
Military children experience a wide range of activities at the camps from horseback riding and canoeing to rock climbing and swimming. Each camp creates a “Wall of Honor” in which campers are asked to bring a photo of their parent to be posted. Campers also are given an opportunity to talk about their parent during this event. A military-themed activity day allows campers to work with their local military community on a joint project.
A military guest speaker also is invited to speak with campers.
“Outside of the traditional outdoor activities, campers are given the chance to learn more about what the deployment is really like,” Joyner said.
The Operation Purple program was created by NMFA, headquartered in Alexandria, Va., in 2004 as a way to help military children struggling with the stresses of war. The program includes traditional summer camps, teen camps, teen leadership camps, family retreat camps and day clinics in overseas locations.
“This year, we're excited to offer three Operation Purple Teen Leadership Camps for military teens who are role models and leaders in their community,” Joyner said. “These leadership camps last a bit longer, 10 days, and include travel expenses to and from camp. After camp, teens return home armed to make a difference in their community.”
Registration for this year’s camps will be open until midnight EST on April 20. Priority will be given to military children with a parent deployed or deploying anytime between September 2008 and December 2009 and who have not had the opportunity to attend an Operation Purple camp in the past.
Thanks to the support of the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization, camps are free to all participants.
“Sierra Club is proud to be working with the National Military Family Association to connect our nation’s youngest heroes with the healing benefits of the outdoors,” Brittany McKee, Sierra Club’s national military representative, said. “Operation Purple camps empower military children and provide a much-needed respite from worries about their deployed parent.”
Since Operation Purple Camp’s inception, NMFA has sent more than 20,000 military kids to camp for free.