Base hosts local children at Camp Sunshine

by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs

7/22/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Young people who live at Montgomery Housing Authority locations experienced fun in the sun at Maxwell, with a little learning thrown in, at Camp Sunshine this week.
The camp is a cooperative effort between the Montgomery-area Boy Scouts and Maxwell. The camp includes children ages 6-12 years old from all across the area, who take part in bowling, swimming, archery and target shooting and observe a military working dog demonstration.

Carla Martin, the 42nd Air Base Wing special events coordinator, said she hopes children have fun and learn cooperation as well.

"Camp Sunshine is important to both the participants and the volunteer counselors who give their time to support the day camp. It fosters an opportunity for them that they may not have otherwise been afforded," Martin said. "The children come from diverse backgrounds, which sometimes cause conflict in their normal day-to-day settings. Their experiences at Camp Sunshine teach them to socialize, work and play together despite their differences in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.

Zernell Mills, a camp attendee, said he was excited about "having fun" this week. He said he was most looking forward to shooting BB guns and playing basketball.
Jaquarius Croskey, another camp participant, said he was "just glad to be out here having fun." He also had some advice for the other attendees: "If you are respectful to your counselors, they'll be respectful back to you."

Michael Collins, an executive for the Boy Scouts, said he was thankful Maxwell hosted the camp. This is the ninth year the camp has been held on base.

"This is probably the best area for these kids to come to. Before it was held here, we used to host at the Boy Scout camps, and it would require us to get all the volunteers together. Since our camps are in Prattville, we'd have to bus the children all the way up there," Collins said.

"Doing it here, the location is fantastic, the base personnel are very helpful, we are able to have swimming and bowling in the afternoon, and our volunteers are almost handled for us."

Hosting it on base also allows people living and working at Maxwell to get involved, and these volunteers make hosting the camp easier, according to Collins.

"The base personnel are always willing to volunteer for it. It doesn't require us to really have to recruit anybody. They just show up and run the show for us. That makes my job a lot easier."

Each day, 20 - 30 base volunteers support the camp as counselors and mentors, according to Martin.

"Hosting Camp Sunshine is one of the ways Maxwell Air Force Base gives back to the communities in which we live," Martin said. "Our military members and civilian employees devote countless hours of their time each day volunteering across the River Region. Camp Sunshine is one of the many programs that benefits from their dedication and service to others."

While Martin said she hopes that the kids will go home with great memories from the week, she said she'll go home knowing she was given the opportunity to make a positive difference in a child's life.

"It's great to see children return each year because of their positive experience and also to see teens who were once Camp Sunshine campers return as camp aides," Martin said. "Seeing them laugh or smile because they are having fun is the greatest reward."