For the sixth consecutive year, the University of Kentucky Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Program received grant funding to hold weekend-long family camps for military families. The camps were open to families from all branches of the military, including Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard members. Two camps were offered earlier this summer – a June camp at Mammoth Cave National Park and a July camp at UK’s Robinson Forest. A total of 114 people from 30 military families attended these camps.

Combat Boot Planter

rThe camps featured a variety of activities with the schedule customized to the location. At Mammoth Cave, families participated in a cave tour, creek walk, horseback riding, alpine slide and canoeing. At Robinson Forest, special activities included hiking, digital photography, outdoor cooking and stargazing. Both camp schedules included handprint flags, family team building activities, geocaching and raptor, reptile and insect programs. Both camps also engaged families in a “Pay it Forward” backpack service project. One parent stated, “Making the backpacks for families provided our children with an opportunity to use their feelings and experiences to help other children in the same situation.”

Through a special donation of combat boots, the camps this summer provided families with an opportunity to create a “combat boot container garden.” The Kentucky National Guard helped garner a major donation of combat boots that were odd-sized or had defects. Military families attending camps assembled container gardens using plastic storage bags filled with soil and flowers and herbs. The activity allowed all family to participate, regardless of age. Families were very proud of their planters and excited to take them home to display as a symbol of military family pride.

Combat Boot PanterFamilies that attended the 2014 camps expressed gratitude for the opportunity. One family shared, “The time we spent at camp brought us closer as a family unit. We can read each other better.” Another family stated, “Our family learned to work together to build skills using everyone’s ideas.”
The camps are planned and implemented with the assistance of many partners. Those included: Kentucky National Guard; Army Reserve; Fort Knox Child, Youth and School Services; Mammoth Cave Hotel; UK Robinson Center for Appalachian Resource Sustainability; UK Department of Forestry, UK Department of Entomology; UK Department of Family Sciences; Military OneSource; Kentucky Arts Council; Wildlife Management Association; UK Cooperative Extension Service 4-H Youth Development Program; The National Park Service; and Life Adventure Center. We extend heartfelt thanks to all who helped make the camps an exceptional experience for military families.

Posted 9/23/14