Camp Corral gives military children a chance at summer camp

Many campers have lost parent in war

SOUTH PLATTE, Colo. - Tucked away past fly fishermen plying the waters of the South Platte River and at the end of a winding dirt road sits Camp Shady Brook.

Though not far from the Denver metro area, it feels remote, nestled beneath the burn scar from the Hayman Fire and well out of cell phone range.

And for the nearly 200 kids attending Camp Corral, a respite from the realities of their life is a welcomed thing.

Camp Corral, which just finished its second year in the South Platte area north of Deckers, is a special summer camp for military kids. The realities of a parent being deployed away from home for over a year is a reality for all children from military families.

For many of Camp Corral's campers, one of their parents never coming back is their reality.

"The top priority is they've had a family member who's been killed in action," explained camp executive director Pat Solden. "And I'd say about 85 percent of our campers are in that top priority."

The camp has a psychologist on hand for any emotional issues the campers might have. But otherwise, it's just camp for the kids.

"The main goal is to just let them be kids," Solden said. "So many of these campers have had to take on additional responsibilities in their family because maybe mom or dad is serving or maybe they're not there anymore.

"So they have had to be kind of that father figure or mother figure to younger kids in their family."

The week-long camp is made up of traditional camp activities: archery, climbing wall, canoeing, a night out camping and team-building activities.

Attending camp with other kids who have faced the same hardships as themselves allows the campers to build a sense of camaraderie that normal summer campers might not, Solden said.

"They're surrounded by campers who all have the same experiences as them, which is not very typical.," he said. "It gives them a good chance to both connect but also to kind of let go of those stresses and just be a kid."

There are two Camp Corrals in Colorado; there is one at Pingree Park in Fort Collins. Solden said the camp unfortunately has to turn away numerous kids because they don't have enough spots.

"We had 200 spots that were open," he said. "We had over 400 applicants apply for those spots. So not everybody got in.

"I can tell you that over 130 of those applicants do fit that top priority of either lost a family member or one who was wounded in action."

For more information, visit www.campcorral.org.