LAKE BROWNWOOD — Nearly 200 children from throughout Texas are at the 4-H Center this week taking part in Camp Corral, a free summer camp for military children whose parents were killed, disabled or wounded during military service.
The one-week event allows the children to take part in traditional camp activities such as archery, canoeing and fishing, ropes courses, swimming and crafts as well as acquaint themselves with others who are facing the same challenges.
The popularity of the camp, which is sponsored by the Golden Corral restaurant chain, has continued to grow to a point over the course of its three-year existence, that several new locations have opened across the nation. The downside to the growth are the number of children who are unable to attend the camp.
“Registration for this week’s camp opened Feb. 1 of this year,” said Mark Carroll, Camp Corral Program Director for this area and 4-H Extension Program Specialist for the Texas 4-H Conference Center. “By the middle of March, we were full and, unfortunately, 300 children could not attend.”
Carroll explained that once potential campers apply, they are prioritized. “The children who have parents who were hurt or killed in military service are chosen first.” Available spaces for those who meet the primary criteria are held until two months prior to the start of camp. Spaces not designated by that point are filled from a waiting list, which can include children of veterans, regardless of medical status.
Katherine Kuxhaus, 11, from San Antonio said she was granted admission due to an injury her mother received while serving in the Air Force. “She got hurt pretty bad,” Kuxhaus said. “She will be having her leg amputated below the knee next month.”
Each of the campers have similar stories. “My dad is in Fort Hood and about to be medically discharged from getting hurt while he was gone,” said Brayden Allen, a 14-year-old from Copperas Cove.
“My dad is about to get out because of medical issues,” added 13-year-old Kirstin Johnson.
Wednesday provided a different schedule of activities for the campers. “True Hero Day” saw campers rotating between stations that were military-themed. At one station stood Cpl. Garrett Hancock, representing the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, who practiced basic facing movements and marching. “Attention. Left face. Right face. About face. Good job. I like it. I like it,” Hancock said as the campers responded to his commands.
The dining room housed another station, where campers were busy making blankets that will be distributed to disabled veterans. Carroll said Brownwood VFW Post 3278 provided the funding for the materials.
On the patio, Sgt. Donald Kimbrell and Sgt. Ely Black with the 111th Engineer Battalion spoke with the campers about their respective military careers and allowed the children to have hands-on time with various pieces of equipment, including two fake (rubber) M16s. “Even though they are fake, we still need to practice safety and not point them at one another,” Black said.
The camp is not only beneficial for the children, but for the mentors who volunteer their time. Layne Wilson, 16, from Centerville, decided to volunteer to honor her brother, Marine Sgt. Wade Wilson, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2012. “Dr. (Darlene) Locke, the director here, asked me if I would be interested, and I thought it would be a great thing to do,” Wilson said, as she rubbed her brother’s ID tags hanging around her neck.
Information literature provided says “Camp Corral is offered in partnership with 4-H Youth Development Group and the YMCA, which are recognized for their expertise in developing youth programs and activities as well as managing the day-to-day operations of a camp and its residents.”
To find out more information about the camp, visit www.campcorral.org.