Leicester camp offers fun for military kids

LEICESTER — In late August, Country Village Campground is offering an unbeatable deal: a free camping weekend open to military families, with everything from meals to activities included.
Chris Herriman, who owns the Route 7 campground with her husband, John, said the family hit on the idea to host the special camping event in 2007, just before a large wave of deployments to Iraq.
At the time, their family — like many others — was facing the possibility that John, a member of the National Guard, would be deployed. They founded the Country Village Cares Camping Weekend to offer children of military personnel a space to socialize and get to know each other.
“Its main goal is focused toward the kids, so that the kids can meet other military kids,” said Chris Herriman. “Military kids have a whole different set of circumstances than those (whose families) aren’t.”
While John was injured in training and was not deployed, the family found that the camp was very popular among Vermont members of the armed forces, and they now run the camp annually.
The program has changed over the years — at first, it was only for children, who spent the weekend getting to know others and playing mini golf, horseshoes, volleyball and shuffleboard.
Since the second year, the Herrimans have been running it as a family camp, giving parents and children the opportunity to spend time together as well.
The campground, which has 15 campsites, is always full — but Herriman said they’ve never turned anyone away, instead finding more space and doubling people up on campsites. Herriman said the weekend usually draws about 40 people.
From the beginning, the camp has received support from Operation: Military Kids, a national organization that works to support children affected by military deployment.
Herriman’s three daughters — two of whom are grown — were all involved in OMK when they were younger. And Herriman said that from the very beginning, Operation: Military Kids has been very involved with the camping event, offering teambuilding activities throughout the weekend and providing cameras and printing equipment so that children can create photo albums.
Several businesses — Hannaford Supermarket in Brandon, Baba a Louis Bakery and Maple Meadows Farm — donate food to the program, and Brandon Lumber donates construction equipment for a building project. This year, kids will be making camp stools.
“When they come here, they don’t have to do anything from the time they arrive,” Herriman said. “They just have to bring something to sleep in — or if they don’t have it we can even supply that.”
She said they’ve had several people over the years who have never camped before, but they’re always won over by the end — especially after singing songs around a bonfire in the evening.
Ultimately, she said, seeing the children connect makes the event worth it.
“The kids make great friends, and they keep in contact with them,” she said.
To participate in Country Village Cares Camping Weekend, contact Stephanie Atwood at (802) 656-0346 or [email protected].
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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