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National Guard youth go to summer camp

Military youth serve, too

Tribe Nine, or the orange alligators, plays the hand tapping game with Washington National Guard member Pfc. Kylan Rowland during their smaller group time for this year’s Washington National Guard Youth Program Summer Camp. Photo credit: Gary Lott

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Military youth serve, too.

That's clearly evident when realizing how many currently have a parent away from home helping battle against more than 700,000 acres blazing across Washington state.

If anyone, besides the servicemembers assisting, deserves an opportunity to get their minds off of the impending real danger that battling wildfires brings, it's the military youth.

"(Washington National Guard Youth programs) WANGY Camp is a great way to push your limits in safe and fun ways," said first-time camper, 17-year-old Damon Doph.  "It teaches you how unity is an important aspect when dealing with tough situations, and overall it teaches us the values we need to get through life's challenges each day, especially for those kids with parents who are out risking their lives to protect us."

A Washington National Guard Youth Programs summer camper hurls a water balloon at adult campers during an annual “Big Game” summer camp game. Photo credit: Gary Lott

Close to 300 Washington National Guard youth had the opportunity not only to enjoy the many offerings that August summer camps in eastern and western Washington could provide, but also an opportunity to smile, meet new friends, exercise, have all-around fun and, at the very least, not stare at their front door and wonder if their parent will come home on that particular evening.

"It gives kids the push to keep being all they can be no matter what comes their way," said Doph.

These camps usually provide an opportunity for servicemember parents and/or their spouses to get some time alone during their child's summer break from school. Some choose to volunteer and enjoy camp with their children and other military youth.

With many servicemembers fighting wildfires this year, parents that can't help out at camp, at least, have an added comfort from knowing that their child is off enjoying camp, that he or she is meeting new friends and enjoying activities such as ropes courses, kayaking, a heated swimming pool, arts and crafts centers, campfires, touch-tank aquariums (where youth can hold starfish, turtles, and even snakes if they dare), and more.

"Camp is a great way to meet new people and step outside of your comfort zone," said Taylor Purdin, 16.  "You make a lot of new friends, and those friends have an impact on your experience.

"If you're a part of WANGY camp, then you're a part of the WANGY family."

This is the 11th year for the Eastside WANGY Summer Camp, which is held near the Spokane area, and the 5th for the Westside WANGY Summer Camp, which is usually held near Camp Murray/Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

For more information about the Washington National Guard Youth Program, contact Robbin Seeberger at 253.512.7985 or robbin.a.seeberger.ctr@mail.mil or visit www.mil.wa.gov/family-programs.

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