Tag Archives: operation purple camp

Help Therapy Animals Heal Military Families Today!

therapy-dogs-webAnyone who has ever loved an animal knows how powerful and healing its presence can be.

Specially-trained therapy animals are a tremendous help to military families recovering from war and separation at our Operation Purple® camps and retreats. These families have sacrificed so much, and they struggle with uncertainty and other stress.

Therapy animals—including cuddly cats, loving dogs, gentle horses, and others—help military families break down barriers they can’t themselves. These nurturing animals provide a sense of calm for adults and kids often surrounded by stress. And they lend a feeling of “home.” They allow service members to reconnect, talk more openly about their fears and needs, and solidify fragile bonds with their spouses and children at our camps and retreats.

Please help more military families heal from the physical and emotional wounds of war through the comforting presence of therapy animals today. Donate now!

Has an animal or pet ever helped comfort you through a difficult time?

Families Outdoors: Reducing stress on kids and your wallet!

Families outdoors: reducing stress on kids and your wallet!I recently stumbled upon a New York Times blog post that discussed how a simple walk in the park could reduce brain fatigue. You know, that feeling of being disjointed or mentally drained. The post got me thinking; if a walk in the park could provide a simple brain refresher; just imagine what a week of camp or a weekend retreat could do!

At Operation Purple® camps and retreats we embrace the healing powers of the outdoors and thrust kids and families into beautiful environments to do just that – reboot. Life is already busy and chaotic so overlapping it with a military lifestyle just seems to be more than any one person should be able to handle. Giving these families a week or weekend away and “unplugged” makes perfect sense.

Our intent is to energize families to try new activities and create memories with the hope that they recreate these stress-reducing moments once they go home. I often reflect on activities my family did for fun that were actually my mom’s way of turning our heads. As a financially stretched military family, expensive vacations or entertainment activities were out of our reach. So our industrious mother chose instead to use night hikes through the neighborhood instead of using what little gas was in the car to pick up little brother from the sitter. Mom-instructed, kid-friendly gardening, was an excuse to get dirty while reducing our grocery budget. Creating our own flour dough in the backyard meant mom never had to consider whether she could afford our request to “have purple, blue, AND pink” play dough.

My mom had no clue her homemade distractions were “reducing brain fatigue”—she just knew doing things outdoors cost her less financially and emotionally. Performing simple outdoor activities provided hours of harmony in our home. So, here are a few of my favorite memories that stemmed simply from a military mom giving her kids some fun in the sun on a tight budget:

  • Have a picnic. We often packed our favorite books, a few blankets, and a simple meal before venturing to a local park or outdoor space. As a kid it was an adventure to eat on the grass after collecting my share of grass stains. For mom, it was a cost effective alternative to my never-ending McDonald’s plea. To this day I love to rejuvenate by sitting on an expanse of grass with a PB&J in hand.
  • Fly a kite. I know this sounds very Mary Poppins, but putting a kite in my hands as a child created an obsession that couldn’t be stopped. I tried it once and was hooked. I quickly gave up my precious Nintendo and found myself running up and down the neighborhood just to see the streamers fly. I’m cringing at how that dates me, but the scenario of being tied to the TV by an electronic game system still rings true for most kids today. My mom’s ploy to avoid purchasing yet another video game created an adult city dweller that now religiously rings in spring by participating in the annual kite-flying extravaganza on the National Mall.
  • Set up a scavenger hunt. Nothing turned sibling rivalry around quite like a friendly competition. Organizing a scavenger hunt that resulted in a team sweet treat to enjoy while basking in the sunshine was a win-win for mom. She got hours of quiet while we feverishly hunted to find every clue outside. The inevitable family nap that happened post-scavenger hunt was a bonus. I honed my trivia skills on a monthly basis while out in the sun.

Spring is here, with summer close on its heels—don’t wait to get kids outside! How will you reduce stress on your kiddos’ brains, and your wallet? What fun new memories will you create that your kids can use when they are adults?

dustinPosted by Dustin Weiss, Youth Initiatives Deputy Director

Military kids need support programs: an Operation Purple Camp testament

Military kids need support programs: an Operation Purple Camp testamentI was born into the military. My dad is a West Point graduate, and for most of my childhood I was the only one in my class who had immediate family serving in the military. Many of my peers did not know or understand what I was going through. It’s one of those things in life that unless you are living it, you can’t 100% understand it. I often felt alone and kept my feelings inside thinking nobody could relate.

But life changed as I knew it when my dad was deployed during Operation: Iraqi Freedom. That year I had turned the big 13, a significant time in every teenager’s life, and received a life changing opportunity – I attended the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple® camp. The professional camp staff with the Tsuga Community Commission that week helped me address the negative feelings I had bottled up inside about my father’s service. It allowed me to be part of a community that I didn’t know existed and feel proud of my family instead of feeling embarrassed and alone. I was able to escape the hardships and struggles, focusing on being just a kid that week.

My father deployed again to Afghanistan a few years later when I was a sophomore in high school and I was able to attend Operation Purple camp again, this time bringing my younger sister for the first time. Watching her flourish that week is something I’ll never forget. She gained confidence and a feeling of belonging that she had been lacking. Something I believe many military kids struggle with in silence.

It was the Tsuga staff that brought the Operation Purple program to Oregon who opened my eyes to see that even through there aren’t any active military installations in Oregon, a support system was actually out there for military children. It helped draw out my inner leader and inspired me to become a camp counselor at Operation Purple camp and join the Tsuga staff that helped me out so much.

After two summers of working with military children, I was able to identify that my passion lies in serving others and being part of something bigger than myself. Operation Purple camp holds a special place in my heart because of what it did, not only for me, but my family and many others like it. Without these nonprofit programs, our military’s youth would be without a resource that provides support and community for our dependents that need it the most.

We cannot forget that our Kids Serve Too.

Posted by Lauren Miner, Former Operation Purple Camp Attendee and Counselor 

April is the Month of the Military Child – Let’s Celebrate!

Happy Month of the Military Child!In 1986, when Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger designated each April as “The Month of the Military Child,” could he have imagined how relevant his vision would still be today? In 1986, many people assumed military kids were dealing with the same challenges, successes, and disappointments that any other kid might encounter. They were. But boy did we find out there was so much more to being a military kid!

Today we kick off the official celebration of our military kids – for their accomplishments and resilience. We recognize that some kids are dealing with struggles that neither Secretary Weinberger nor any of us could have imagined. The global conflicts since 9/11 have forever changed our lives. In the early days of conflict and in response to parents asking for help, the National Military Family Association launched our Operation Purple® summer camp program to help military kids cope with the stress they were experiencing. Stress from their dad or mom being in a war zone, stress from the ever-present media coverage of combat, stress related to the separation from a loved one, and stress from feeling alone.

This summer marks the tenth year of Operation Purple camp. Nearly 47,000 military children from around the world have had the chance to meet other kids at a place where they can just be kids, and celebrate being in a military family. At camp, military kids create a “Wall of Honor” to showcase the pride they feel toward their special family member who is serving. Kids raise their hands to share “top ten things” about being a military child or being at camp and have the chance to talk with each other about what bothers them and what makes them tick.

All of these activities are integrated into the well-known camp stuff like rock climbing, swimming, hiking, campfires, you name it. Operation Purple camp gives military children, who are unique yet the same, an opportunity to connect.

Ten years have passed and we never expected to be in this market for this long. Thanks to past generosity from Sears, Roebuck and Company, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the Sierra Club Foundation, Goldman Sachs Gives, and countless individual donors, we have been able to serve our military kids. And while we didn’t expect to host camps for as long as we have, we know now is not the time to leave. Our kids are too important to our future – for all of us.

As we celebrate our military children this April, our work continues. We want this month to not only acknowledge how strong military kids are, but to also focus on supporting them as they grow up in the military community. Thank you, Secretary Weinberger, for bringing this awareness through the proclamation so many years ago. Now it is up to all of us to make sure we keep our military kids safe, loved, and celebrated – not only in April but through the entire year!

We want to celebrate by featuring YOUR military kid! Throughout April on our Facebook page and website, we will post videos, photos, and quotes from military kids around the country. Submit yours today!

On behalf of the National Military Family Association, we thank you and your children for their service and sacrifice. Together we’re stronger.

theresaPosted by Theresa Buchanan, Youth Initiatives Director at the National Military Family Association

Operation Purple camp for military kids: apply now!

Ten years ago, the National Military Family Association heard the same thing over and over from military parents: “How can we help our kids deal with deployment?” Our answer? A free, week-long camp experience for military kids to get to know each other, share common bonds, and have a blast!

Operation Purple® camp offers military kids a time to get away and be kids in a stress-free environment. Campers ride horses, climb towers, plummet down water slides – all in a “purple” environment. The very name of the game is to bring kids of all ranks and services, including reserve and guard components, together to enjoy a very special week of camp. This experience is unmatched by any other programs currently serving military kids.

These days, what we’re hearing from military parents is: “Thank you for Operation Purple camp!” Thousands of military children have experienced the joy of camp, and this year we are focusing on getting the word out to families who have never had the opportunity to share in the fun. If your child has attended Operation Purple in the past, tell a friend and encourage them to apply! The application is available beginning today.

Check out the video below for a little peek into an Operation Purple camp.

Has your child attended an Operation Purple camp in the past 10 years? If so, tell us the best part of their experience!

dustinPosted by Dustin Weiss, Youth Initiatives Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association