JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (WIBW) -- A unique camp in Junction City is giving back to hundreds of military children and helping them heal after the loss of a parent or cope with parents who are injured, disabled or deployed.
Camp Corral is a new camp being held at the Rock Springs 4-H Center from July 15-20.
Some 240 military children. ages 8-15, from Kansas and 17 other states are attending the program, designed to give them an escape from the day-to-day challenges they face.
"Camp Corral is sponsored by the Golden Corral restaurant corporation and its franchises. This is the first time we’ve had it at Rock Springs. They had one in North Carolina last year and they’ve expanded it to eight different states with nine different camps," explained Pam Van Horn, a 4-H Specialist with Kansas State University. The camps are managed and staffed by the 4-H Youth Development Group.
Some 1,800 children from families with deployed, fallen, wounded or disabled service members or veterans are experiencing Camp Corral this year across the country.
"A lot of these kids ,because of what’s going on with mom being deployed or dad being deployed or killed or wounded, they’ve taken on extra responsibility in the household. They might be the ones who fix meals and help their little brother or sister get ready for school and get on the bus and here, they don’t have to worry about any of that. They get a chance to come out and be a kid and have a week of a lifetime and forget about some of those stressors that they have at home," said Mike Spohn, the camp director and operations manager for Rock Springs.
Military equipment from Fort Riley and McConnell Air Force Base was brought in Wednesday to honor the kids during "Real Hero Day."
The children also heard from Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Zielke, the commander of Fort Riley’s Warrior Transition Battalion which aids wounded soldiers. He says it’s important for soldiers and their families to heal together.
"The idea behind Camp Corral is to get them together with other kids who are going through the same thing and a lot of times, they can work out their issues among themselves because they figure out that they’re not the only ones going through this so they know they’re going to be alright," Zielke told 13 News.
Tessa Shelton, a Missouri resident whose father is a disabled Marine, added: "It's nice to know that I’m not the only one out there like that. There are other kids like me and it’s OK and you can talk about it and people support you."
"It’s nice to have someone to talk to who you can really connect with," added Garrett Johnson, whose family is stationed at Fort Riley. Johnson's father is currently deployed to Afghanistan and he says he has confided in his fellow campers about how he misses his dad and they listen and understand because they've dealt with it before.
Camp Corral also features traditional activities like horseback riding, boating, crafts, swimming and outdoor orienteering. Golden Corral created the camp in 2011 as an extension of its commitment to disabled veterans, recognizing that the children of military families can face grave issues. The camp is free of charge to those in attendance.