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VFW HELPS MILITARY CHILDREN EXPERIENCE THE JOY OF SUMMER CAMP

Scholarship sends 200 military kids to camp.

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For the past three years, Maggie Egbert, 9, and her sister, Karli, 6, have raised money through a church bike-a-thon to send foster children to summer camp. The two little girls put their whole hearts into the fundraiser, raising $425 this year alone. 

“Can I go to camp, too?” Maggie recently asked her mother sweetly. 

“I told her ‘someday’ she could go, and Maggie accepted that answer without question. We couldn’t send her now because it was outside of our household budget,” explained Tracy Egbert.

That ‘someday’ came a few months ago, when the Egbert family learned that Camp Wood YMCA in Elmdale, Kan., would be offering summer camp scholarships for 200 children of active duty military members. 

The scholarships were made possible in part by a $20,000 gift from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Military Services program. The donation also represented the final funds needed for Camp Wood to secure a challenge grant through the Lewis Humphreys Charitable Trust.

Maggie’s father Ralph is a Sergeant stationed at Fort Riley, Kan.

“We’ve been here five years, and he’s been deployed almost half the time. He’s gearing up now for another deployment,” said Tracy. “We always remind ourselves that these separations are temporary. We’re strong.”

The experience of camp meant everything to Maggie.

“I was so worried she’d be homesick, but she did great! I wrote her letters every day,” Tracy said. “Maggie is still talking about it … the horses, the art class and of course, her two new pen pals.

“It means more to my husband for people to support his family than to support him,” Tracy said. “I’m still so overwhelmed that people believe in military families enough to do this. It truly made our year.”

Military spouse Rebecca Schaefer echoed that sentiment.

Her sons, Michael, 11, and Jonthan, 8, were able to attend camp for the first time, too. Their father Jared is a Staff Sergeant stationed at Fort Leavenworth.

According to Rebecca, Michael and Jonthan recounted many fond memories from their week at camp, including climbing the camp tower, archery, the amazing water slide into the lake and horseback riding.

“The moment we picked them up they asked if they would be able to go again next year,” Rebecca said. “It is truly touching that these people would give so much to my children. This is something that would be difficult for us to afford without the help of those that have served … and clearly continue to serve. Our family has a long history of service in the military, and it is wonderful to see the generations passing down opportunities to the next generations. I pray that we too will be able to pass the blessings forward,” Rebecca concluded.  

Since 1916, Camp Wood YMCA has provided high-quality camping programs in a caring family environment tucked within the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas. With a wide variety of safe and fun activities, Camp Wood YMCA is one of the ultimate summer camps in Kansas for youth, ages 7-17. Find out more at campwood.org.

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