UC Riverside welcomed Operation Purple Camp back to campus last week, giving 80 military-connected kids a taste of college life with summer camp activities.
The campus first hosted the camp, a program organized by the National Military Family Association, in 2019. The week-long stay, from July 10 to July 14, was its first return since then as the program and hosts have begun returning to normal following the pandemic.
“It’s gearing back up,” said Christy Brown, manager of Operation Purple Camp for the National Military Family Association.
UCR was one of only 12 sites hosting Operation Purple Camp this year and the only one on the West Coast. It was also the only college campus host and with programs for teenagers.
The campers, between the ages of 12 and 17, came mostly from California with some from out of state and one all the way from Italy. The camp is free for military-connected children, many of them who have active service parents.
Their activities included archery, a high-ropes course, and swimming. UCR Recreation, which hosted the camp, also offered academic lessons and exercises emphasizing leadership, teamwork, and conflict resolution. They stayed at Pentland Hills Residence Hall and ate meals at Glasgow Residential Restaurant.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, joined the campers Monday, July 11, for a flag raising at the Student Recreation Center. The kids also took a field trip the next day to March Air Reserve Base.
Carl Dugdale, youth program coordinator for UCR Recreation, said the experience provides the campers a chance to have fun, learn skills, and experience a college setting, hopefully inspiring them to pursue higher education.
Brown said the camp allows kids to bond with others sharing similar experiences. Many of them come from families who move frequently, making it harder to make friends at schools. About 40% have a wounded parent and as a result often shoulder additional responsibilities at home, she said.
Elizabeth Gosser, 14, flew in from her hometown of Lacey, Washington for her second time at Operation Purple Camp. She had gone to one in Seattle about a year ago.
“It really helped,” she said of the experience. “They talked about how to express your feelings in a good way.”
As she began her week at UCR, Gosser said she was looking forward to “making lots of new friends and having lots of fun.”