Teen leadership camp supports military youth

Randy LaBauve, Moran, Leslie

Madison Donnelly shoots video for an awareness campaign about the Operation Military Kids program. (Photo by Randy LaBauve. Click on image for downloadable version.)

Noel Cusik sorts shoes at the St. Vincent de Paul distribution center for their various thrift stores. (Photo by Randy LaBauve. Click on image for downloadable version.)

Dalton Deville, Cameron Comeaux and Brandon Deville help sort items at the St. Vincent de Paul distribution center in Baton Rouge. (Photo by Randy LaBauve. Click on image for downloadable version.)

News Release Distributed 08/03/12

Twenty teens from military families across the state participated in an “Operation: Military Kids” camp on leadership July 25-27, sponsored by the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Development program.

One of the main goals of the camp was to get military youth connected with people who have similar backgrounds and to encourage them to become leaders in the community, according to Leslie Moran, 4-H specialist and the Louisiana Operations Military Kids coordinator.

“All of our camps have been for five to 18-year-old military kids,” Moran said. “This is our first one exclusively for the older 13 to 18-year-olds.”

Operation Military Kids is a national program funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. In Louisiana, the program is a partnership of the LSU AgCenter, 4-H National Headquarters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Army Child, Youth and Social Services.

The Louisiana Operation Military Kids program also operates in partnership with other organizations such as the Louisiana National Guard, the American Red Cross, and the Boys and Girls Club, Moran said.

Campers at this year’s leadership event did a variety of activities including youth-led production of videos aimed at public awareness of military kids, a tour of the LSU campus, and volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul distribution center for the poor. They also enjoyed bowling and a movie night, Moran said.

“They learned to speak about their military experiences and learned about leadership. A main goal was to show them that a big part of leadership is about giving back to the community and serving other people,” Moran said.

Fifteen-year-old Cameron Comeaux from Lafayette saw both his father and brother deployed twice to Iraq.

“When they were deployed, I was worried that they might get hurt,” said Comeaux. “It’s good to have OMK so we can meet people like us that go through similar experiences.”

A military family life consultant with the Louisiana National Guard spoke and did activities with the campers as well.

“We go through stages of deployment with youth to help them deal with emotions. We provide a safe environment for them to open up and to become friends with other military youth,” said Mikelle Ricou, National Guard Child and Youth Program coordinator.

Ashley Deville, 16, from Pineville heard about the camp and decided she wanted to go. Her father was at one time deployed to Iraq for six months.

“Most people don’t know the struggles we go through,” said Deville. “It’s good to be friends with these kids, because many of our parents already know each other.”

Louisiana Operation Military Kids has put on many camps such as Camp Lagniappe, USS Kidd Camp, and various events at the LSU AgCenter Camp Grant Walker in Pollock, La. A common theme for all the camps is camaraderie, friendship, teamwork and fun, Moran said.

“I really liked the tour of LSU and the videography,” said Deville.

“What I hope they take away is they’ll never be alone. Whether their parents are at home or deployed, we’re always here for them,” said Ricou.

Randy LaBauve

8/4/2012 1:25:01 AM
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