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'Little Warriors' Surf Camp to Host 100 Military Children

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2009 – Surfs up! Military children of wounded or fallen servicemembers will be able to catch their first wave this summer, thanks to Freedom Is Not Free, a California-based troop-support group.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Military chidren take time to pose after riding the waves during a 2007 "Little Warriors" Surf Camp. This year the camp will host 100 military children of wounded or fallen servicemembers Aug. 10-14 in La Jolla Shores, Calif. Photo courtesy of Freedom Is Not Free
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The “Little Warriors” Surf Camp will host 100 military children ages 8 to 15 in La Jolla Shores, Calif., Aug. 10-14.

“This is the third year that Freedom Is Not Free has sponsored a surf camp for children of wounded and fallen servicemembers,” retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman, executive director of Freedom Is Not Free, said. “In the past, this camp was an all-sports camp, combined with enrichment sessions. I thought that a surf camp made a lot more sense. The venue is always available, and I happen to have caught the surfing bug after moving here a number of years ago.”

Kopelman said he hopes the surf camp will give the military children an opportunity to learn a new sport and connect with others who have similar experiences.

“There's something very peaceful and life-affirming about being on your board, even when the surf isn't particularly great,” Kopelman said. “This camp gets the kids away from home and the reminders of what has made their lives a little less happy – if even for just a day.”

The surf camp lasts five days, and each group of 20 campers attends for one day, which includes three and a half hours of instruction. Freedom Is Not Free will provide water and lunch for the campers, and Surf Diva Surfing School will give campers rash guard, ball caps and T-shirts to commemorate their experiences.

“Wahoo's Fish Tacos, a local restaurant, will provide burritos every day for the kids,” Kopelman said. “At the end of each day, as an added treat, all campers will get boards.”

Sector 9 Skateboards and INT Softboards will give Freedom Is Not Free boards to raffle, and Bessell Surfboards is designing a custom Freedom Is Not Free surfboard.

“I heard about this through a friend,” said Tim Bessell, owner of Bessell Surfboards. “I didn’t hesitate. Our servicemembers are on the front line for us every day. Their kids are paying a price when they are away or when they don’t come home. Their kids are their legacies. This surf camp will be an awesome experience for them.”

Kopelman said parents interested in sending their children to surf camp should call or send an e-mail to get more information on applying. The camp is only for children of wounded or fallen servicemembers.

“I've contacted the San Diego Armed Services YMCA to solicit potential campers and the family readiness officer for [the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force] at Camp Pendleton,” Kopelman said. “Because the population of military children from which to choose is so large right here in San Diego County, I hadn't thought about paying for an out-of-state camper.

“It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities,” he continued. “In fact, that might be something to actually promote as we go forward.”

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