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Peterson Youth Center holds Winter Resiliency Camp

BLACK FOREST, Colo. – Air Force children from across the nation took part in a Winter Resiliency Camp at La Foret Conference and Retreat Center in Black Forest, Colorado, Nov. 19 to Nov. 23, 2016. The five-day camp was hosted by the 21st Force Support Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and was filled with non-stop outdoor activities and eye-opening discussions. (Courtesy photo by 21st FSS)

BLACK FOREST, Colo. – Air Force children from across the nation took part in a Winter Resiliency Camp at La Foret Conference and Retreat Center in Black Forest, Colorado, Nov. 19 to Nov. 23, 2016. The five-day camp was hosted by the 21st Force Support Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and was filled with non-stop outdoor activities and eye-opening discussions. (Courtesy photo by 21st FSS)

BLACK FOREST, Colo. – Air Force children from across the nation took part in a Winter Resiliency Camp at La Foret Conference and Retreat Center in Black Forest, Colorado, Nov. 19 to Nov. 23, 2016. The five-day camp was hosted by the 21st Force Support Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and was filled with non-stop outdoor activities and eye-opening discussions. (Courtesy photo by 21st FSS)

BLACK FOREST, Colo. – Air Force children from across the nation took part in a Winter Resiliency Camp at La Foret Conference and Retreat Center in Black Forest, Colorado, Nov. 19 to Nov. 23, 2016. The five-day camp was hosted by the 21st Force Support Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and was filled with non-stop outdoor activities and eye-opening discussions. (Courtesy photo by 21st FSS)

BLACK FOREST, Colo. – Air Force children from across the nation took part in a Winter Resiliency Camp at La Foret Conference and Retreat Center in Black Forest, Colorado, Nov. 19 to Nov. 23, 2016. The five-day camp was hosted by the 21st Force Support Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and was filled with non-stop outdoor activities and eye-opening discussions. (Courtesy photo by 21st FSS)

BLACK FOREST, Colo. – Air Force children from across the nation took part in a Winter Resiliency Camp at La Foret Conference and Retreat Center in Black Forest, Colorado, Nov. 19 to Nov. 23, 2016. The five-day camp was hosted by the 21st Force Support Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and was filled with non-stop outdoor activities and eye-opening discussions. (Courtesy photo by 21st FSS)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Imagine being 13 and having to move schools in the middle of the year.

Imagine having to say goodbye to your mom or dad for up to a year while they travel to a war-torn land and not seeing them ecstatically waving to you in the crowd during eighth grade graduation.

Imagine eating lunch alone in the bathroom stall after you transferred to a new school because nobody wants to eat lunch with the new kid.

Being a child of military parents carries certain challenges, challenges that without consideration or acknowledgment can take a toll on a growing child during pivotal years.

Recognizing and responding to this issue, the 21st Force Support Squadron took action and began a Winter Resiliency Camp for all Air Force children nation-wide from Nov. 19 to 23, 2016.

Twenty-four middle-schoolers came together to reflect on personal resiliency and grow together through physical and mental problem solving.

Spanning coast to coast, children arrived at the R.P. Lee Youth center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., early in the morning not knowing the impact the next five days would hold, said Dan Dillabaugh, 21st Force Support Squadron youth director.

Dillabaugh said the children were vetted through an application process where multiple essays on personal resiliency were required. From 60 applicants, only 24 were awarded with a spot in the camp.

After arriving, the campers were treated to pizza and games while all participants made their way on base. Staffers started to realize the power this camp’s influence possessed as they watched the initial interactions between the campers during their arrival.

“It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen,” said Dillabaugh. “These kids were instantly bonding. Usually you’ll have kids who are very stand-offish, even adults have that tendency, but when someone new walked in the doors, the campers immediately introduced themselves and began bonding.”

The first day was reserved for arrivals since a wide array of participants were flying and driving in from all over the country, Dillabaugh said. Once all the participants were present, the staffers loaded vans with duffel bags and suitcases and drove the campers to the La Foret Conference and Retreat Center in Black Forest, Colorado.

With help from both Peterson AFB and U.S. Air Force Academy’s Outdoor Recreation programs and Schreiver AFB’s Military Family Readiness and Military and Family Life Counseling, the week was filled with non-stop outdoor activities and eye-opening discussions.

The next few days included events centered around teamwork and leadership with significant moments that revealed the true resilient nature of all the participants. Dillabaugh said that along with an active day of rope course challenges and outdoor team-based ice-breakers, the camp targeted a Colorado-specific activity to really drove home the message of resiliency.

“Our ski and snowboarding event on Tuesday was our main event,” Dillabaugh said. “We emphasized the resiliency aspect in this event by not just the basic sense of falling down and getting back up, but also in conquering fears.”

Because the camp was open to participants from all over the nation, some campers had never experienced snow and never experienced such a challenge. He said they looked to their newly bonded friends for guidance, trust and help.

“Coming in at the beginning we had a group of indivduals,” said Dillabaugh. “We had a family that walked out when we were over. Campers walked in with fear and hesitation, but were able to put those feelings aside and focused on what the week had in store. By the time they left to return home, they were amazingly strong.”

Dillabugh said the leadership team at the 21st FSS and himself are actively pursuing the camp as an annual event for Peterson AFB to hold every year. The team looks forward to growing and expanding this event for all military youth to enjoy and learn from.

For information on 21st FSS events visit 21fss.com or the R.P. Lee Youth Center.

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