The familiar sounds of summer can be heard at The Salvation Army’s 706-acre Hidden Falls Camp every June and July. Kids laughing and splashing in the pool, cheers from first-time climbers on the high ropes course, and the rhythmic twang of bow strings on the archery range. But for one week each summer, the camp also echoes with the sounds of brightly colored battalions proclaiming the superior skills of “tigers” and “gators” while marching in formation to activities.
Camp AT South is different, because its campers are different. These are all children whose parents are members of the Indiana National Guard. Each of them has experienced the uncertainty and fear of knowing that a deployed parent is in harm’s way. For many, their parent is currently far away in service of their country. Camp AT South is a chance for these kids to come together, have some fun, and bond with others who understand what it’s like to be in a military family.
Jeannie Dobney, director at Hidden Falls Camp, has worked with the Indiana National Guard the past several years to plan and execute Camp AT South. “I love this camp,” Jeannie shares. “You always see those pleas for help with other programs, so having this opportunity to serve our military families in a hands-on way is really rewarding for the entire Hidden Falls staff. We work with the Indiana National Guard throughout the year, and it’s been great watching this partnership become more and more strong.”
In addition to traditional camp activities, the kids at Camp AT South also get a taste of what their own parents do during basic training and Annual Training (AT) exercises. They learn about orienteering and participate in a lot of teambuilding exercises. Most importantly, these campers get to spend time with kids who can relate to their own experiences.
“When these kids are back at home and they know that their parent is actively deployed, it feels like they are the only ones experiencing that and what that feels like,” explains Jeannie. “So when they can be with this group of individuals who have been where they’ve been, or are currently in the same situation, they form such unique bonds. That they can take that home and feel encouraged and supported. They know they’re not alone in what they’re going through.”
The Salvation Army has long had a strong relationship with American armed forces, from the first Donut Girls of WWI to care packages that continue to be sent across the globe today. Camp AT South is a natural extension of this service, a way to help our soldiers’ families in a meaningful and lasting way. Thank you for helping us to make this service available this summer and for years to come.
The Salvation Army has been helping children all over Indiana experience camp for many years. For more information on the camp, visit the website at http://www.hiddenfallscamp.org/ or contact the Hidden Falls Camp & Conference staff directly at (812) 279-2495. Camp Director Jeanie Dobney can be reached via email at [email protected]