Last week I had the pleasure of spending 3 days at an Operation Purple camp on Catalina Island, CA. "Purple" is a term used to encompass all military service branches - Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves. The Sierra Club has partnered with the National Military Family Association (NMFA)'s Operation Purple to provide free summer camps for military children coping with the deployment or pending deployment of one or both parents. The camps provide military children with the healing powers of the outdoors and tools to help them deal with the stresses of military life.
The Sierra Club believes that every child, every person, deserves and needs to have a special place in nature. And too often in today's society, children just don't get those outdoor experiences. In fact, when I talk to kids at camp about what they'd be doing if they weren't at camp this week, the top two answers are ALWAYS - 1) watching TV, and 2) playing video games. And yet, while they're there, these same kids are having an amazing time! They're running and playing and experiencing all the mental and physical benefits that come from playing outside. In fact, according to a CA Department of Education study, children gain self-esteem and personal responsibility from outdoor experiences - and students who spend a week in an outdoor education setting see their science test scores increase by 27%!!
After having spent a week on Catalina Island, 120 kids returned home to Camp Pendleton on Friday. Their buses were greeted by cheering families and friends waving welcome home signs and treated to a Welcome Home Celebration on the beach with NMFA, Sierra Club and The Sierra Club Foundation. Click here to see the press release about the event
The Catalina camp was just one of 62 locations in 37 states hosting Operation Purple camps this summer. Through our partnership with NMFA, we are sending 10,000 military kids to 100 weeks of free outdoor summer camps! Over 50% of these kids have never before participated in an outdoor camp. We're so proud to be providing these much needed outdoor experiences to military children - particularly during such a crucial time in their lives. Drawing on the healing and connecting benefits of the outdoors, these camp experiences empower military children and provide a much needed respite from worries about their deployed parent.