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“Sit and Listen” – Operation: Military Kids Overnight Teaches More Than Just Survival

This summer, the Cottonwood Institute and Operation: Military Kids teamed up for the Operation Military Kids Family Survival Skills Overnight.  In July, a team of students, accompanied by a number of parents, ventured up into Colorado Lions Camp near Woodland Park, Colorado for a weekend of outdoor exploration and fun.

This trip equipped its participants with good, practical knowledge about surviving in the wilderness, and also gave everyone an opportunity to get to know each other in an environment that facilitated a sense of community and teamwork.  Surviving in the outdoors alone was a new and enriching experience for most of the students and their parents.   Some people seemed a little hesitant at first, but it wasn’t long before the group’s avid interest and enthusiasm for the outdoors became apparent, as well as their remarkable ability to connect and relate to one another from day one, despite having never met before.

Students, instructors, and parents alike focused their time and energy on learning new survival skills and discussing how to respect the land they were staying on.  Course participants learned how to make one-match fires, and even got to try their hand at using bow drills.  They also learned how to build debris shelters, an activity that some students found to be so enjoyable, they wanted to try constructing shelters in their own backyards.

For some, one of the best parts of the trip was simply having an opportunity to be alone in the wilderness.  Finding sit spots, a reflective exercise where each participant finds a place to sit in the woods where they can be alone with the stillness of their surroundings, became an activity of special importance for many of the students.  “My rose was the sit moments—just being able to sit and listen,” said TJ, one of the students who attended the course.

For others the most valuable aspect of the trip was being able to get to know other people.  At the end of the weekend, one participant took time during their closing circle to mention all of the “roses,” or strengths, she had observed in each person attending the course.  “Her words were a great example of how well this group got along, and they also showed how you can learn a lot from other people,” said Madeline Bachner, an instructor on the course.

“We so appreciated the opportunity to go out on a survival adventure sponsored by the Cottonwood Institute,” said Channon, a course participant, in an e-mail to the Cottonwood Institute.  “Your founder and donors should be very pleased with how your organization is helping to nurture a love of the outdoors and the confidence to enjoy it as only a true camping experience can provide.  My husband, who is deployed to Afghanistan, also wants me to pass on his gratitude for getting his girls up to the Colorado mountains this summer.  It’s non-profit groups like yours that take up the slack when our troops are off serving and away from family.”


Categories: Military Kids Project, Notes From The Field

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