Johnny Morgan, Morell, Randall, Schexnayder, Kathleen | 4/25/2009 12:43:21 AM
BATON ROUGE – The LSU AgCenter’s dairy farm was the site of a special day camp for military kids and their families on April 17.
Kathleen Schexnayder, coordinator of the Louisiana Operation: Military Kids program in the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Development Department, and Casey Alphonse, LSU student and the camp coordinator, planned the “down-on-the-farm” event as a way to help military personnel and their families meet and get to know others who are having similar experiences.
“This is one of a number of events that we are sponsoring around the state to help military families who are not attached to a base stay connected,” Schexnayder said of the dairy farm experience.
Schexnayder said the LSU AgCenter’s dairy farm in Baton Rouge was chosen for this camp because it offered the children a learning experience.
“We are giving them time to get to know other military kids and to make new friends,” she said. “And we’re giving them time to make memories they can share with their parents who are deployed.”
Randall Morell, an LSU AgCenter research associate at the dairy farm, said the farm hosts numerous tours.
“We have small and large animals for the kids to see and even touch, we have a hayride tour of the farm, and we will let them tour the milking parlor,” Morell said.
Two of the highlights of the camp were a fistulated cow, which has an intentional hole in her side for nutrition research, and a cow the participants were allowed to milk by hand.
Alphonse said this is one of many camps conducted around the state for a variety of age groups.
“Here we have ages ranging from 18 months to 15 years old,” Alphonse said. “Our goal is to connect these families, especially reserve families because they are not living on a base and may not know about the many resources that are available to them.”
Anissa Johnson, a National Guard captain with a young daughter, said the camp is great for the kids and is helpful for the parents as well.
“This is our first camp, and it’s giving my daughter a chance to hang out with other military kids and also to expose her to different things, such as the hayride,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who is originally from New Orleans, said she transferred to the Baton Rouge area after Hurricane Katrina.
“In New Orleans, the only chance for my daughter to experience a hayride would be a special event such as Halloween,” she said
In addition to seeing the dairy cows, participants also saw a variety of other farm animals, including pigs, ducks, chickens and goats.
Schexnayder said she likes to think the camps are fulfilling a need for these families.
“In north Louisiana, we’re having some babysitter camps,” she said. “We had the Battle of Mansfield Reenactment Camp. We’re also doing some events at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Grand Chenier, La., and at the LUMCON facility in Terrebonne Parish.”
Operation: Military Kids is a program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Defense. It started five years ago with the goal of educating the public about the unique stress facing military children – especially those who are not living on military installations.
The program is designed to create community support networks for military youth when their parents are deployed in the National Guard and Army Reserve, organizers said.
Louisiana is one of 49 states participating in the Operation: Military Kids program.
For additional information on the LSU AgCenter’s Operation: Military Kids program contact Schexnayder at (225) 578-2196 or firstname.lastname@example.org.