Our family camping weekend, Nov. 11- 14, 2011, was a great success. The Sierra Club grant for $7,100 was combined with another grant for $7,000 to provide for 102 people, 22 military families, to attend camp at Camp Lakewood, a YMCA Camp in Potosi, Missouri.
The goal of the weekend was to provide military families with an opportunity to spend time together and reconnect following a deployment. Also, one of our families used the chance to spend valuable time together PRIOR to deployment.
Check in was on Friday evening and each family was assigned a cabin. T-shirts were provided for each family member and logos for both ASYMCA and Sierra Club were displayed on the shirts. Each family developed their own schedule based on the activities offered during the weekend. These included: archery, riflery, zip line, wall climbing, sessions at the nature center, water ecology, horseback riding, pony riding, geocaching, and arts and crafts. Families participated as a unit at each activity and everyone participated in a two day scavenger hunt around the property.
On Friday evening, the families were engaged in “ice breakers” and were treated to entertainment by a local magician who mesmerized the crowd.
After breakfast on Saturday,each family moved from activity to activity based on their own schedule. We all met for lunch and dinner. Saturday evening we provided a camp fire with audience participation and s’mores for all to enjoy.
Throughout the weekend, crafts and games were available for the children and families to borrow and enjoy. Children and adults alike were seen laughing, talking and bonding with each other and other military families.
Sunday concluded the remaining activities and lunchtime was a time to award “prizes” for the winners of the scavenger hunt. Families were asked to complete a survey and provide us with feedback from the weekend.
One soldier remarked, “ I saw a sign that said, Let a Kid be a Kid, and I felt like a kid this weekend. It was great!”
A female airman from nearby Scott AFB, “I will be deploying to Korea for a year, so we used this time to spend together before I have to leave. We had a great time.”
Another family, “This weekend has been a true blessing to our family. As a military family, our lives get very busy and hectic. This was a great opportunity for us to spend time together, try new things, and enjoy the company of many other families who are dealing with similar lives."
Almost every family tried something new for the first time. Kids were delighted to see their parents trying the zip line or climbing the wall. Parents were beaming with pride as their children shot an arrow or made a bullseye. It was an amazing weekend for everyone.
These weekends are essential for family bonding and strengthening. Military families experience great emotional stress due to frequent deployments and change of duty stations. I am always fielding questions regarding the next family camping weekend.
All accommodations, meals, and activities were provided to the military families. These 22 families had a weekend they will always remember.
Armed Services YMCA of Missouri
PO Box 350
Fort Leonard Wood, MO 65473