AUSTIN -- This summer thousands of Texas kids are enjoying camp, and one organization called the Comfort Crew for Military Kids is giving campers the support they need as they deal with a parent's deployment.
The kids attending the unique summer session at Camp Mabry know that life can change in an instant.
“It's been a really hard time,” said 12-year-old Daismar Santos. “He's been gone for one-and-a-half years, but he's going to come back really soon.”
Santos counts the days until her father, a National Guard member, is scheduled to come home from Afghanistan. It's the same situation for many of the kids attending Camp Hero.
“I feel a lot better knowing that other people understand and know what it's like,” she said.
Camp Hero is a five-day program for kids who have immediate family in the National Guard and Reserves. It's free for each child. The activities focus on having fun, along with building physical, social and emotional resiliency.
Hayden Davis, 11, says his father is now home from Afghanistan, but he still remembers the anxiety he felt while he was away.
“I kind of felt like I worried a lot about him, and it was really stressful,” Hayden said. “It's fun to be with some people that know what you've been through and what it's like to have someone deployed.”
Award winning author Trevor Romain co-founded the camp. He says an experience while he served in the military changed his life and made him realize he wanted to devote his life to helping children.
“I picked up a little boy who'd been injured, and he wouldn't let go. He held me, and his tears ran down my cheek and into my shirt and touched my heart,” Romain said. “There's a huge need for support for these kids.”
This week the campers are also making comfort kits, complete with encouraging notes and a teddy bear, for younger children who have a deployed parent. It's all part of an experience that binds them together.
“Sometimes they're the only kid at their school that has a parent in the National Guard, and they're deployed as much as anybody else,” Romain said. “So to give them the support they need and the tools to be able to manage what they're going through is so vitally important, and that's what this camp is about.”
Every year nearly 73,000 kids of National Guard and Reserve service members in Texas are separated from a parent due to deployment.