The First Coast YMCA in Northeast Florida is giving back to military families this summer by offering free recreational activities for them and their children to enjoy. According to First Coast News, the program, known as ‘Operation Hero,’ is open to active-duty military children in first through sixth grade, and is designed to help children adjust to the changes in their lives as they navigate the frequent moves and deployment separation of military life.
The ten-week program unites children and military families in conversations reflecting their similar life experiences, and helps them build a strong support system. At Operation Hero Kids Camp, children create lifelong friendships with peers who understand each others’ experiences. The campers are also “encouraged to celebrate the sacrifices [their parents] make and be proud of their role as a military kid.”
According to YMCA instructor Kayla Van Bebber, “Whether it’s their parents are working all the time, different emotions, moving, making new friends, starting in new schools and new neighborhoods, we want to be able to bring them together as a family and build this relationship with them.”
First Coast News reports that the YMCA is looking to expand their Operation Hero program to other counties due to the success they have seen in strengthening relationships and building friendships. Sibrena Sears, a mother whose child participates in the program, shared that it has made a positive impact on her relationship with her daughter who she feels she has grown closer with and is able to talk with more.
Giving back to the military families that sacrifice so much for our freedom, the YMCA has found a way to show them that they are sincerely appreciated. The opportunity to spend quality time together among military families with similar experiences helps all who participate find the motivation and inspiration to keep moving forward with pride and positivity.