News: Atterbury hosts 22nd Kids AT
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Matt Scotten
EDINBURGH, Ind. – More than 220 military youth from all over the State of Indiana swarmed over Atterbury’s perimeter July 5-12, overcoming every obstacle set in their path by way of rappelling operations, archery, swimming, and more. In the end, the children had overrun the entirety of the installation, even going as far as to give a fresh coat of paint to the Atterbury Veteran’s Memorial (gasp), all the while chanting songs and performing dances to celebrate their conquest.
All the festivities were really just part of the Indiana National Guard’s 22nd Kids Annual Training, a summer camp managed by the Indiana National Guard and hosted by Atterbury specifically for children of service members.
Campers take part in all manner of military training, to include marching, rappelling and marksmanship (albeit with paintball guns to keep things safe). Being introduced to basic military culture gives children a better perspective of what their parents do in the military.
To keep things as fun as possible, children also participate in more typical summer camp activities, such as swimming, camping, archery, and various arts and crafts. Adding to all of these activities is the opportunity to meet and bond with other military children. Many campers make friendships that last a lifetime.
“I’ve been coming here every summer for 17 years,” said former camper turned camp counselor Tara Sumner, who has been attending the camp ever since she was 5 years old. “This camp is just amazing. I come back and I see old friends I made here years ago, and then share everything I’ve experienced here with new children, watching them create friendships and memories of their own, all while getting an amazing first-hand look at what their parents do in the military. It gives you such a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices our parents and other service members make for our country.”
Every year the camp has a new theme. This year’s theme is Hoosier Heroes. Campers learn all about what it means to be a hero; not just in a military capacity, but in society as a whole. As such, they participated in several service projects throughout their time at camp to teach them the value of giving back to the community.
This year’s service projects included a beautification of the Atterbury Veteran’s Memorial, repainting trim, shoveling fresh mulch, planting new flowers and laying new lava rock. Some students had the opportunity to build new park benches for the memorial.
“These benches mean, quite literally, that a piece of Kids AT will be a part of the Veterans Memorial for years to come,” said Indiana National Guard Family Programs Director Lt. Col. Lisa Kocpzynski. “Carved into these benches is ‘Kids AT 2014’ and I think if these kids ever come back and visit later in life they are going to see those and remember and take pride in the fact they were a part of this.”
In effect, Kids AT offers all the perks of any other summer camp, and then goes beyond, by teaching children to take ownership of their communities and work to make them better. In a world of tablets, smartphones, video games and social media, Kids AT shows children the feeling of reward that can be had putting down these modern items in favor of a shovel, a can of paint and brush. (Insert standing ovation here.) All this accomplished while simultaneously building teamwork skills, esprit de corps and camaraderie among the campers.
Kids AT brings together military youth for an outstanding summer experience, all run by a group of 146 adult volunteers consisting of service members, retirees, military family members and former campers along with community partners and other organizations such as 4H, Military Family Research Institute, Operation Military Kid and Flat Rock River Camp.
“I have a lot of friends that I think would love this camp. I’m gonna tell them all about it,” said Collin Aber, a 10-year-old first-timer at Kids AT. “It was especially awesome getting to do rappelling. It was all fun, but that was the best. I’ve had a butt-load of fun.”