Summertime conjures all sorts of images, from picnics, to long days at the beach, to sending kids off to summer camp. I'd like to highlight a different kind of summer camp - a free week of summer fun for military kids with parents who have been, are currently, or will be . The Sierra Club Foundation and our Military Family Outdoor Initiative supports these camps, which are part of a program called Operation Purple and run by the National Military Families Association.These camps are a great chance to make sure no child is left inside. Operation Purple camps offer young people ages 7 to 17 a fun chance to be outside doing "kid stuff" - all while helping them bond with other kids coping with the same military family situations. This summer there are 62 camps being held in 37 states, all adding up to 100 total weeks of camp for more than 10,000 kids.
Last year the camps served 4,000 kids, and we here at the Sierra Club loved the idea so much that we had to support it and make sure even more young people got the chance for this type of fun. We're proud of what these families do for the U.S. and want to recognize their service.
Brittany McKee, the Sierra Club's national military representative, said these camps have a great variety of activities for every age involved.
"They do all sorts of typical fun camp stuff - like kayaking, snorkeling, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, ropes courses - all with the goal to promote team building," said McKee.
"The camps also provide environmental education through activities like night hikes and more. The biggest goal of these camps, though, is to just have fun, since so many of these kids have extra stress."
McKee said many of these kids don't have the opportunity to bond with other kids who share those same experiences and worries. "This is an outlet for them," she said.
The camps also promote communication, McKee added, with activities that generate the conversation about what it's like to be a kid with parents in the military.
"It's not therapy, but we do have a mental health consultant on hand just in case a kid does need some extra help."
Other camps, through a National Military Families Association partnership with the Armed Services YMCA, allow the whole family to come along and enjoy the outdoor fun together. Yet another partnership with Outward Bound allows veterans and active duty service members to take hiking trips together.
McKee shared her thoughts on why the Sierra Club Foundation and its Military Family Outdoor Initiative supports the Operation Purple camps and its many partnerships. "We recognize the burden that military families are under and wanted to be able to provide the healing benefits that come with outdoor experiences. We want to make sure military families get to enjoy the natural wonders, too, as they make such sacrifices for the country."
I couldn't have put it better myself.