Contact: Jon Prichard, Springvale, (207) 324-2814
ORONO — Whether it’s kayaking down a river, backpacking through the forest or racing high-adventure style, military family teens with a thirst for adventure will have a greater number of options this summer thanks to an expanded federal summer camps program run by the country’s university Cooperative Extension System.
The U.S. Defense of Department, with the U.S. Agriculture Department and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, in addition to Extension offices at 11 other land-grant universities, have teamed up to offer military teens low-cost, high-adventure camps at 50 locations, including one in Alaska and two in Europe, in addition to Maine.
The USDA, land-grant universities and the Cooperative Extension System will work with local communities to offer the camps. Military teens ages 14 to 18 can pick their adventure — from a five-day kayaking trip through Washington’s San Juan Islands to a four-day adventure racing course in the Northeast to a one-week backpacking trip through Alaska’s Denali Forest.
The DoD and USDA, through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), has awarded 12 grants for the program, which expands and broadens existing summer camp opportunities for military family children that has been administered in Maine and other states by Cooperative Extension offices for about five years, according to Jon Prichard of the Extension office in Springvale. Prichard and Extension Director John Rebar in Orono say at least 272 Maine youths will benefit. Nationally, the combined 12 projects approved by the NFIA will make camp opportunities available for more than 2,800 youth.
The camps will offer military youth experiences not readily available through traditional programs, according to the American Forces Press Services. Due to frequent moves, military parents and youth may be unaware of local opportunities; the camps are intended to fill that gap. Previously, youths attended camps in their respective states.
“Now it’s a national program,” Prichard says. “We will be attracting kids from around the country. The kids can go any place from Alaska to Arkansas. Hopefully, we’ll have a mix of Maine kids and kids from around the country.”
The Maine Military Adventure Camps will occur at Extension’s 4-H Camp and Learning Centers at Bryant Pond and Tanglewood/Blueberry Cove.
“The opportunity for children in military families to experience the outdoors in this way is fantastic,” says Doug Babkirk, Extension’s associate director.
Purdue University, designated to make selections on behalf of the DoD and USDA, received 25 applications and approved projects at the universities of Alaska, Arkansas, California – Davis, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire and Colorado, Ohio and Washington State universities.
“This is a great opportunity for our military youth to leave their comfort zones and challenge themselves in a variety of ways,” Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, says. “The skills they learn through these camps will remain with them for the rest of their lives.”
The Cooperative Extension website for Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Centers has additional information.