Camp for military kids revived after loss of federal funding

2013-05-22T20:02:00Z Camp for military kids revived after loss of federal fundingContributed by Dunes Learning Center nwitimes.com
May 22, 2013 8:02 pm  • 

CHESTERTON | A summer camp for children of military families that was nearly canceled this year because it lost federal funding has been revived through a fundraising campaign of the camp operators.

For the third consecutive year, Indiana Operation: Military Kids summer camp will be held at Dunes Learning Center at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, after all.

"There are a lot of organizations in the state that support military families, and it's great to see the Dunes Learning Center keep that commitment and serve military kids," said Ryan Wynkoop, coordinator for Indiana Operation: Military Kids, based at Purdue University.

Because of spending reductions, the Department of Defense granted funding to only 23 states for Operation: Military Kids camps this year. Indiana was not among them.

In January, it was doubtful that a camp would be held this year. But Dunes Learning Center and the American Legion took on the project of raising the needed money to restore the program.

The camp supports youth affected by military deployment by connecting them to local community resources that can give them support when a loved one is deployed.

Indiana Operation: Military Kids is a shared initiative of the U.S. Army Child, Youth & School Services and funded by the Army National Guard and Army Reserve in collaboration with Purdue Extension.

The camp will be held July 14-18. Campers will sleep in cabins and participate in activities such as swimming in Lake Michigan, going on hikes to learn about the biodiversity of plants and animals at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and enjoying nightly campfires. Programs such as counseling to help campers of deployed family members cope with their situation also are offered.

Dunes Learning Center will take as many as 60 campers ages 9-18. Eligible applicants must have a parent, guardian or sibling who is either now serving in the military or has been wounded or killed in action. Those eligible from neighboring states also can attend. Last year, all five branches of the armed forces were represented at the camp.

To apply, parents or guardians must fill out an application and mail it to Indiana Operation: Military Kids, 615 W. State St., West Lafayette, IN, 47907. Applications are on the website of Indiana Operation: Military Kids at www.four-h.purdue.edu/omk/OMKcamp.html. Deadline for applications is July 1.

Dunes Learning Center and American Legion raised $1,335 for the camp as of mid-May. The camp has assured Indiana Operation: Military Kids that it will provide the $22,000 needed to fund the camp. Pledges from donors are being made online at indiegogo.com/projects/396126. Contributions are tax deductible. Any additional money raised beyond the goal will go toward next year's camp.

Raising money for the camp is a way to show appreciation to members of the military who are separated from their families in service to their country, said Geof Benson, executive director of Dunes Learning Center.

"The parents are doing a great job serving our country," he said. "The least we can do is send their kids to camp."

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