While watching the comments fly on Facebook about the Susan G. Komen foundation recently, it occurred to me that I know of yet another organization that is entirely deserving of support and encouragement, besides Honor Flight, which I've blogged about once (in five installments) before. I will not give my money to the Komen Foundation because they like to support Planned Parenthood, one of the largest abortion providers in the United States. The Komen Foundation's support seems like a total conflict of interest because abortion makes breast cancer more likely to happen.
So here is a post about the ever-worthy Operation Purple Summer Camp program. Operation Purple provides free summer camp for children who have a parent deployed. Maestro went in 2007. It was his first sleep-away camp experience. I applied for him to go because I really felt like he could use some contact with other military kids who could understand what he was experiencing when his pop had to go away.
I'll admit that I was a little worried about my then-eight year old being with older kids for a week away from Mom. I worried that perhaps there would be foul language used that I didn't approve of (come on, they are military kids!), social pressure about dating, etc. In picking him up the following week, I found none of those things - and, he had a blast!
When we first arrived to drop him off, we entered the building where they were staging the check ins. They had us fill out paperwork (medical forms, etc.) and took his picture in front of a flag. They asked us if we would be willing to fill out an evaluation form when we picked him up - all those good things. He was assigned a cabin and we helped him carry in his gear. On each bunk bed was a small teddy bear to welcome the children in. After that, away went the rest of us - on back home. My oldest boy didn't seem at all nervous about being away from me for a week. I suppose that made me a little sniffly to think I was no longer needed in the same way that I once was, but life does have to move forward at some point, doesn't it?
The house was so quiet that week! All of a sudden, it was me, our five year old (Smeagol) and Bruiser, then three. So... a three and a five, maybe not so quiet as all that, but quieter at any rate!
A week later, we hit the road for the hour-long drive to pick Maestro up. He was exuberant. He won a dance contest (a complete surprise to me, because he tends to take a little while to warm up for things like that), and a grass hula skirt for a prize. He talked a mile-a-minute all the way home. They had a man come out and talk to them about various military jobs, he gave them each a dog tag of some sort, and answered all their questions. To that end, he helped put Maestro's mind at ease about the jobs our military members do when they have to go off to war.
He had the option of going out to camp in a tent for a night, and took advantage of it. My only complaint? They let him watch High School Musical - and I tend to be kind of... overprotective... when it comes to the media my children are exposed to. As parting gifts, he received a mouse pad with his photo printed on it and a DVD that had photos from the week, set up as a slide show to music. He also had contact information for many of the kids he met while he was there.
He really wanted to go back the next year, but alas, we were not able to send him. They do have kids who return multiple years - because their parents deploy so frequently. Like almost any military family, we have been separated a few times but are fortunate enough to have Pop home for quite a little bit of time this time around. So I've contented myself to tooting the Operation Purple horn whenever I can and donating money to let other kids go as well.
To find out more about Operation Purple camps, make sure to visit the link I've provided - you can donate from that link as well. For my money, it's a far better organization than some of the others that get so much notice and attention.