Aug. 9, 2010

Virginia Guard Family Programs holds 5th annual Youth Summer Camp

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Children of Virginia Guardsmen spent the first week of August making new friends, meeting up with old friends, and filling their days with fun and educational activities during the fifth annual Virginia National Guard Youth Summer Camp at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach.


Master Sgt. Jeffrey Billmyer helpsa camper fish while participating in the Hooked on Fishing not on Drugs event during the fifith annual Virginia Guard Summer Youth Camp at Camp Pendleton State Military Reservation on Virginia Beach August 3. Billmyer is a Virginia Guardsmen who volunteered to be a counselor at this year's camp. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Some days the 55 kids and 18 teen volunteers boarded buses to go to Busch Gardens, Williamsburg or a local water park for their activities. However, sometimes the activities came right to the campers. The Virginia Air and Space Museum and the Virginia Aquarium sent employees to give interactive classes to the Guard youngsters.

While the days were filled with fun activities, this camp was not only about the kids having fun. It was also about learning, and the kids spent their mornings in classes focused on helping children of military families cope with issues faced by military children, according to Dana Ivory , State Youth Coordinator and one of 30 adult volunteers at the camp. The classes gave the children the chance to discuss deployment and reintegration issues they may face when a parent gets deployed.


Campers at the fifth annual Virginia Guard Summer Youth Camp build objects to help people sustain life while colonizing the moon during a demonstration at Camp Pendleton State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach provided by employees of the Virginia Air and Space Museum August 3. The children took legos and random items and put them together to create items they thought would be beneficial to people on the moon. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“For these Guard youth to be geographically dispersed, and then bringing them together and giving them training and letting them talk out the different deployment experiences that they have had, and building that relationship with one another, is very key,” said Ivory. “Especially when they are going through the deployment and it helps them sustain.”

Unlike children of active duty service men and women who live on bases, and have daily access to support groups and other children dealing with a deployed parent, many children of Guard Soldiers and Airmen are spread out across the state in different communities where they do not have access to other kids who may be going through the some of the same emotions they are when a loved one is deployed, according to Ivory. The Summer Youth Camp brings the kids together once a year to show them that they are not alone.

“One of the things we want to make sure is that the kids understand that there are other kids out there who have parents in the military,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Dolan, a volunteer from the Virginia Guard Drug Demand Reduction program. “A lot of these kids’ parents are deployed, and it gives them an opportunity to find other kids who are just like they are, because a lot of times kids feel that they are the only ones going through this.”

On Aug. 3 the Virginia Guard Drug Demand Reduction program provided a handful of Soldiers to present the kids a condensed version of their mentorship program “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs,” where the Soldiers teach kids to enjoy wholesome activities instead of turning to drugs for fulfillment, according to Dolan, whose  12 year-old son was a first-year camper.

“We take the kids out and show them how to cast, how to catch fish and just let them have a good time fishing,” he said. “Just about every kid caught a fish. We like to see that.”

“We love to see when a kid’s eyes light up when they catch a fish. That’s what this is really about; to show them that they can do things.”

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