Published: June 1, 2021
Moving is one of the most stressful events for the average person. But our military families move a lot, and often, without much notice — most moving every two to three years, on average. Packing up that much to uproot to a new location often lands families far from friends and extended family, leaving them isolated from support networks and with a lack of “belonging” to their community. This problem is so prevalent that, according to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, only a quarter (27%) of active-duty family respondents report feeling a sense of belonging to their local civilian community.
When families feel isolated at home, it puts a great deal of stress on their service member, thus hindering their focus on the mission. Why should that matter to you? Their concern for their family on the homefront can affect their decision to continue serving. In fact, one in three (36%) active-duty respondents say, outside of retirement or medical/administrative discharge, a reason they would leave service was “concerns about the impact of military life on their family.” If we can’t retain strong service members, our mission readiness will suffer.
That’s why it’s so important we support military families like Shelly’s at every juncture of their journey. Shelly, a proud Army spouse and mother of three, comes from a long line of military service, dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War. She and her family have moved eight times in their 12 years together. “The first time in our relationship that we have spent a full consecutive year together without any separation was 2020 due to COVID slowing the country down,” Shelly recalled. “We try to focus on the positives. One of my favorite things comes after a separation. It’s the gift of the ‘first kiss.’ We continue to be blessed with getting to experience a first kiss over and over. I also love the fact that with each move, we find and learn a little more about ourselves. But it can be hard. The loss of feeling of belonging, always having to find your people. Finding your people is so important, and it can be difficult when you move so often.”
As parents, we do our best to shield our children from life’s toughest challenges. But that’s not something you can always do as a military family. The loss Shelly feels with each move is experienced by her children, too, regardless of her and her husband’s efforts to protect them. “For my kids, always having to say goodbye to their friends is so hard.” Shelly shared. “Always being the new kid and having to prove themselves, having to overcome first day anxieties each and every school year because they don’t know anyone is so tough on the child and the parent. When schools have Grandparents Day… Donuts with Dad. Our children may not have their dad at home because he’s deployed or training. We may be states away from their grandparents. It’s heartbreaking for the child and for me trying to assure them it’ll be ok if mom goes instead.”
When things get hard, however, Shelly knows she has support in her corner. She turns to Blue Star Families to empower her kids, and allow them to feel recognized, supported, appreciated, and loved. Not to mention, to give them the attention they deserve and the chance to focus on the fun. And this past summer, while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, Shelly and her family needed Blue Star Families more than ever. “We had moved with the military to Maryland just seven months before the COVID-19 shutdown hit.” Shelly recalled. “We were still getting settled and learning our way around. When life around us began shutting down and we were stuck at home, I knew our kiddos would need some outlet of normalcy. I was so grateful and super excited to find Blue Star Summer Camp – the Home Edition!”
Participating in summer camp is such a memorable part of childhood. With peak permanent change of station (PCS) season falling in the summer, there are many years where military kids aren’t able to make those memories. “Finding summer camps to participate in can be difficult for military families,” said Vicky Perkins, Blue Star Families’ Senior Manager for National Programs. “From managing the financial costs to fitting it in around moves, it’s not easy for some families to participate. Then, the pandemic hit. Everyone was confined, safely, to their homes, and new challenges emerged. Families were desperately searching for activities for kids, things they could do safely to occupy their time and give the adults a break. We knew we had the tools, resources, and partnerships to do something great. So we jumped in and created Blue Star Summer Camp – the Home Edition!”
The program delivers three themed weeks packed with activities, including virtual field trips to Blue Star Museums, to keep kids engaged. With participating museums, zoos, and aquariums, military kids have the opportunity to explore content and engage with experts. Campers may even be surprised on-screen by an animal visitor or two! Last year, 300 participating families were also sent Blue Star Summer Camp boxes filled with some of the items needed for the fun hands-on activities included in the camp schedule.
This year, thanks to generous support and the overwhelmingly positive response, 600 registered families will receive a Blue Star Summer Camp box! A greater bonus for families who often struggle with isolation? Each week is capped off with a virtual “campfire.” True to the nature of a campfire at summer camp, this unique, virtual gathering allows campers across the globe to unite and share their week’s projects, sing campfire songs, participate in character development related to the week’s theme and led by Veterans from the Travis Manion Foundation, and even hear from a few special guests.
“Receiving an entire camp-in-a-box was amazing,” Shelly said. “The weekly themes, times to log in for ‘all camp sing-a-longs’, schedules to follow, crafts to make, science projects to try…it was all provided! Having ‘something to do,’ something on our schedule to look forward to, was wonderful, but seeing other military kids who were just like our kids, and having them all interact was wonderfully heartwarming.”
The response from families like Shelly’s was unanimous and awe-inspiring, proving that we needed to continue to deliver Blue Star Summer Camp – the Home Edition! to military kids. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do this year (and beyond). And our amazing partners are with us—like Boeing in Utah that’s supporting Aerospace Week!
Registration for Blue Star Summer Camp is open now! Only the first 600 families who sign up will receive the bonus Blue Star Summer Camp box, so don’t wait. Visit our website to learn more about this exclusive program, and register your kiddos to participate in the fun today.