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Kids whose lives affected by war attend camp

 

The children looked like any of the thousands who descend on Lee Scripture's camp each summer.

They acted the same, talked the same and enjoyed the same activities.

But camp staff knew they were different.

"As far as the kids are concerned, they're normal campers," said Scripture, director of the Eastern 4-H Center. "You'd have never known any difference."

But Scripture knew the difference. He knew that some of the campers had lost their parents in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others had fathers and mothers severely handicapped by the wars.

All of the children - ages 8 to 15 - had more than the typical stresses of children. They had the constant relocations of military families under their belts - the deployments and the uncertainties of war.

This summer, the Eastern 4-H Center in Columbia, near the Albemarle Sound, hosted 240 military dependents over the two weeks ending July 4.

The children participated in the camp free of charge thanks to Raleigh-based Camp Corral, a nonprofit that works with 20 accredited YMCA and 4-H camps to provide free summer camps for military children, with priority given to the children of wounded, disable or fallen troops.

Scripture said the camps were a small part of a busy summer for the 4-H center, but said those campers stood out.

"It's our chance to give back to those kids who sacrifice more than others," he said. "It's our chance to serve those children."

It was the second year the Eastern 4-H Center partnered with Camp Corral, Scripture said. This year most of the campers came from the Fayetteville, Jacksonville and Norfolk, Virginia, regions, he said. But others came from as far as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

"They're absolutely incredible," Scripture said. "It's always amazing to me - how independent and well-rounded they are."

Other than the campers themselves, the camp is not all that different from any other summer camp, officials said.

According to Camp Corral officials, the program is meant to provide a place where "kids are free to be kids, away from the day-to-day challenges they face in their military families."

Campers participate in a range of traditional outdoor activities, including swimming, canoeing and archery, but with other children who share similar family situations.

Camp Corral has served thousands of children across 16 states since 2010, when it was founded by Golden Corral founder James Maynard.

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