April 1st marks the start of the Month of the Military Child. The Sierra Club, Armed Services YMCA, Blue Star Families, National Military Family Association, Outdoors Alliance for Kids and the National Park Service are kicking off this month with an outdoor celebration for hundreds of military children and their families at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Va. Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, will speak about the importance of connecting military children with the outdoors.
“Military children serve too, and we’ve found that connecting these children with the outdoors allows them to not only have fun, but gives them and their families a sense of resiliency,” said Stacy Bare, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors national military representative. “The outdoors heals.”
The outdoors allows children to “unplug” and connect with other military children. Military families and veterans have found that time outdoors helps them reconnect with families and friends, and regain positive aspects of their military experience.
“The Celebration of the Military Child Outside event will strengthen family bonding and give our military families healthy tools to help make military life easier. We are proud to partner with the Sierra Club and other non-profits on this great event and year-round,” said CEO Mike Landers of the Armed Services YMCA.
Children of deployed military families are twice as likely as those from nonmilitary families to report elevated anxiety and experience significantly higher rates of behavior problems than their peers. “Our military children face many challenges right now,” said Mark Smith, executive director of Blue Star Families. “Between moves, school, and deployments, military kids really need a chance to get outside, play, and explore. That’s why we’re excited to join these military-serving organizations to celebrate military children outdoors.”
Hundreds of children with active-duty parents will get to enjoy a day of hiking, learn how to cast a fly rod and pitch tents. “The National Military Family Association has long shared the belief in the healing powers of the outdoors. After more than 10 years at war, events like this that bring families together outside to make new memories are so important,” Joyce Raezer, National Military Family Association executive director.
Children spend an average of 7.5 hours a day connected to electronic media, and less time getting outside. "Kids aren't getting too many opportunities to just be kids these days," says Jacqueline Ostfeld, the chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids.
"OAK is proud to stand with military children and their families to celebrate their service and give kids an opportunity to decompress from the daily stresses they face by getting their hands dirty and enjoying some quality family time in the great outdoors."