120 children of U.S. service members are getting the opportunity to go to camp this summer.
The Armed Services YMCA is partnering with Washington state’s YMCA Camp Seymour and YMCA Camp Lake Helena to give military kids both day camp and overnight camp experiences, and at an affordable rate for their parents.
As an organization, the Y’s support for military families goes back 150 years. It started with relief efforts in the Civil War, and continued through both World Wars and the founding of the USO.
“Especially as a YMCA that serves the community of Western Washington, which has a lot of people who serve in the military — we’re just very proud to be able to stand by our servicemen and women and their families,” remarked Jonny Eberle, Communications Director for the Y of Pierce and Kitsap Counties.
Camp Seymour itself has been in existence for over 100 years. It offers activities such as:
- Rock climbing
- High ropes course
The kids at Seymour are able to experience nature through a new lens, and even learn about the Puget Sound’s ecosystem with a touch tank of aquatic life.
Why is camp so valuable for military kids?
Military families move an average of every two to three years; for military kids, it’s especially important to be adaptable, since they must start at new schools and make new friends each time a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) occurs.
Summer camp for military children is a special opportunity to gain a sense of belonging, find new interests, and have positive memories to look back on. It’s also something that many generations of kids have experienced, and a great way to put down a phone or tablet and explore the outdoors.
“It’s an important experience for kids to have,” Eberle said.
“We know that for military families that relocate a lot, this gives them a place to have some stability… a place to keep coming back to, and friends they’re going to see year after year.”
YMCA Camp Seymour also offers a one-week camp for children of wounded or fallen service members, at no cost to their family.
“Camp Corral was the best thing that happened to our family all year. Our kids spent 6 days with new people and activities, without electronics, and came home raving about it. My husband and I had 6 days together and were able to reconnect. Time alone like this isn’t possible normally because we don’t live near family, so we were especially grateful for this time,” one parent said.
During these six days, kids will be able to participate in normal camp activities, and team-build with others who are just like them. They come from similar backgrounds, and have a shared understanding of military life, deployment, and maybe even loss.
To learn more about Camp Corral, click here.
When does camp start?
Camp Seymour starts on June 30, with week-long camps running through August 24.
Lake Helena starts on July 1, with no camp on the Fourth of July, and runs through August 23. Because it is a day camp, bus transportation is available in certain locations for kids to get picked up and dropped off from camp.
How much does it cost?
The Military Campership Program is funded by the Armed Services YMCA and the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties Annual Campaign.
Day Camp rate for Camp Lake Helena: $50 (regular rate: $249)
Overnight Camp rate for Camp Seymour: $100 (regular rate: $749)
In order to qualify, parents must:
- Be active duty, full-time National Guard or Reserve
- Hold a rank of E-1 through E-5
- Be stationed in Western Washington
If you meet these requirements, you can submit an application here. You’ll want to apply now if you’re interested, as funding is limited, and your child may be placed on a waitlist.
For more information, click here.