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Operation Purple At Home Brings Virtual Camp to All Military Kids

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children making s'mores
(Photo courtesy of NMFA)

Summer is in full swing and for those families missing out on in-person summer camp, the National Military Family Association has a solution.

Each year, NMFA hosts free overnight Operation Purple camps for over 1,600 military kids. But with more demand than supply, spots aren't guaranteed, and thanks to the pandemic, the in-person components of this year's camps were canceled.

But there is a silver lining. Instead of an application process with specific parameters around age, this year everyone can participate. From children of retirees to active duty to National Guard and Reservists to veterans, there's enough room for everyone in a virtual space.

The rehashed program, Operation Purple At Home, is open to military kids of all ages. At Home camp combines live events and fun activities that can be done as a family to make the most of this extra time home together. While the activities may relate to one age group more than another, nothing is age-specific.

"Right now, we're all stuck at home with kids of all ages and we wanted to develop activities that work as well for a four-year-old as they do for a fourteen-year-old," said Hannah Pike, NMFA's military family programs director. "Operation Purple at Home activities do just that."

Held during the week of July 6 to 10, participants will be given activities to do as a family, which range from 30 to 60 minutes in length. But since they can also be done any time, if a family is unable to participate in everything during camp week or wants to prolong the fun, you can easily do that. The themes for projects this year include pride and service, communicating as a family, teamwork, empowerment and stewardship.

"When was the last time you were blindfolded and guided through a maze by your kids? I don't want to give too much away, but everything is going to get you outside, engaged and happy. The pandemic has forced all of us to be at home and in close proximity with each other -- it's our goal to inject fun back into family," Pike said.

While virtual camps may not be the right fit for every family, the Operation Purple At Home organizers have worked hard to create options for everyone. Despite being "virtual," the camp is designed to give a choice of daily adventures each morning with instructions for offline activities, so you don't have to sit in front of the computer all day. In addition, there will prizes for those who participate and interact during the camp week.

"Regardless of circumstances, our mission remains the same -- to support and uplift military families. We know how important it is to keep families connected and engaged and when COVID-19 came about we said, 'Challenge accepted.' Besides, who wants to skip camp? More than ever families are looking for ways to create new memories. What we know is that we need to bring Operation Purple home to them through in-home and virtual camp experiences," Pike said.

Pike said her team leaned on Wounded Warrior Project to help them shift the camps online. While many organizations were grappling with how to still offer their programming in the face of pandemic uncertainty, NFMA was well ahead with plans to make sure they could continue to support military-connected kids.

"With the help of Wounded Warrior Project, we're thrilled to bring the fun of Operation Purple camp to military families wherever they are. In doing so, we'll grow a dynamic program to meet military families' needs now and, in the future, and strengthen the impact Operation Purple has on families all year long," Pike said.

To register for Operation Purple At Home, visit their website. Registration is free and takes just a few minutes.

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--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at rebecca.alwine@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebecca_alwine.

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