Happy Campers

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(From left) Elizabeth, Rachel and Rebekah Franks are all smiles at Camp Corral. Their lives at home are not as carefree as their mom would hope, and Camp Corral gives them a place to play and relax with other military children with the same challenges.

DAV joins forces with Golden Corral to help military and veteran children ‘Just B Kids’

It’s that time of year for military kids to head out for summer fun at Camp Corral events across the nation, and many will be able to attend thanks to DAV’s Just B Kids scholarship program.

Camp Corral, founded by Golden Corral in 2011, is a free, weeklong summer camp for children from military families. Priority for camp spaces is given to those with injured or fallen parents.

Funds for the camp are raised by Golden Corral, DAV, various corporate sponsors and individual donors. Last year, DAV departments and chapters and its Auxiliary units nationwide raised more than $600,000 and helped send 1,000 military kids to Camp Corral.

Brenda Franks, of Houston, is the former spouse of an Army veteran who sustained a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a 2009 deployment in Afghanistan. Because of the Just B Kids program, children like her daughters Elizabeth, Rachel and Rebekah spent time having fun and meeting new friends at Camp Corral.

“We couldn’t have afforded camp any other way,” said Franks. “Even if we could afford [a summer camp], choosing to send them to camp with other kids who have injured warriors in their homes has made such a huge difference. They are encouraging and understanding toward each other.”

Camp participants take part in traditional camping activities such as horseback riding, canoeing, archery and swimming, designed to ignite a child’s spirit of adventure. But Camp Corral also creates an atmosphere of freedom for military and veteran children who deal with challenges their peers don’t face. It offers campers an opportunity to relate and bond with other kids, creating a network of friendship that can last well beyond that special week in the great outdoors.

“Children of military members serve right along with their parents, and that creates a different set of challenges for those kids,” said DAV National Adjutant Marc Burgess. “We are proud to support Camp Corral while it provides children a chance to play, relax and talk with their peers facing the same challenges.”

Thanks to the generosity of caring individuals across the country, this year more than 3,800 children of military and veteran families will attend camp at one of 22 camp locations in 19 states.

“Camp Corral values tremendously the partnership and commitment of DAV, both from a national level and local chapter level,” said Leigh Longino, Camp Corral CEO. “DAV not only allows more deserving children to go to camp, they also provide resources and services to our camper families. All any parent wants is for their child to feel happiness and joy. Together, we are able to make that a reality. Thank you isn’t enough.”

Camp directors and volunteers also enjoy being a part of allowing military children to be happy campers.

“We love when the volunteers come out for our Heroes Day carnival,” said Elizabeth Cochran, executive director of YMCA Camp Ernst in Burlington, Ky., which hosts Camp Corral in August. “The kids love ice cream, and you can tell by the volunteers’ faces it’s an honor to serve the kids. What makes it more special is the DAV volunteer outreach and knowing DAV cares for all parts of you.”

For more information about the DAV Just B Kids scholarship program, visit justbkids.org