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Operation Military Kids camp set for July By Sharon Dowdy

Wearing dog tags and eating powdered eggs may not sound like typical 4-H camp activities. But then again, Georgia 4-H’s military kids camp isn’t your standard camp.

Operation Military Kids High Adventure Camp is a week of 4 H camp designed for children of military families. The camp is open to children whose parents are currently deployed, soon to be deployed or have recently returned from deployment by the Active, Reserve, or Guard components, and is available to all service branches.

Practically free

Set for July 25-29 at Wahsega 4 H Center in Dahlonega, Ga., the camp is open to youth ages 12–14. The camp is provided at minimal cost through funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and through Operation: Military Kids. Campers pay just $20 for the week.

The campers will go through the same bag-and-drag experience and deployment line on the first day of camp as their military parents’ experience. They’ll be issued dog tags and an army green T shirt which will serve as their uniform.

The campers will wake up at 7 a.m. for their daily exercise regime and eat military rations just like their soldier-parent.

Stengthening inside and out

The theme for the week will be an introduction to Georgia 4-H and learning skills to better communicate the issues of military life. Campers participate in adventure activities like whitewater rafting, spelunking, zip-line riding and wall climbing.

"The kids participate in many unique and adventurous activities not offered at other 4 H camps across our state," said Marcus Eason, the Georgia Operation: Military Kids program coordinator.

"They’ll go on a three-hour tour of Raccoon Mountain Caverns and then roll out their sleeping bags, turn out their headlamps and spend the night in one of the many rooms of the cave,” he said. “All this happens after a long day of whitewater rafting down the Ocoee River in Tennessee.”

Focus on "suddenly military"

The OMK camp will benefit children of parents who are “suddenly military,” he said.

“Suddenly military kids are those who, prior to this experience, have never experienced their Guard or Reserve parent being deployed,” Eason said. “While the camp is open to all military youths, it will especially support youths who don’t live on military installations.”

In the past, these children’s parents have been soldiers who served their country by spending one weekend a month or one week training each summer away from home, he said.

This is the sixth year the military kids camp will be held in north Georgia.

To make attending more convenient for working parents, the camp will begin on Sunday and end on Thursday, so parents transporting their kids to Wahsega 4-H Center won’t have to miss two days of work, he said. McIntosh County 4-H will provide a school bus to transport campers from Fort Stewart.

“We not only are recruiting military youths for camp, but are also seeking energized adults to volunteer for the week of camp,” Eason said.

For questions about camp or to volunteer as an adult leader, e-mail Eason at oper4h@uga.edu or call him at (706) 542-4444. For more information on the Georgia OMK program visit the website www.georgia4h.org/omk/

(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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