Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors sponsored by Sierra Club Outdoors  It is our pleasure to help coordinate this  special event honor our youngest heroes – our military children. April is the Month of the Military Child!  Join us as we celebrate our nation’s youngest heroes. This April, partners will join forces to connect military children with the outdoors. Together, we will honor their sacrifice as we explore and enjoy the lands they and their parents served to protect.

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Our adventure began with a barrage of challenges from our Sierra Club coordinator being detained in Washington state, and the death of my  fuel pump in the fully loaded van 90 miles in to the 200 mile trip to Camp Lejeune. In classic Sierra Club style these challenges were overcome, with me experiencing a much needed six hour break in a lovely piney wood along highway 74. This theme carried through during the battle of the wind on lovely Onslow Beach Friday night. Our group made up of Tom, Nancy, Kelly, Hollis, William and I, finally conceded to the wind and agreed to attempt this task again in the morning when our troop numbers would be increased three fold. The morning came with light winds, and cooler temperature for a quick and successful rally to be ready for the children and families to arrive. This event was only made possible with the labor and perseverance of my North Carolina Sierra Club Outings Chair Kelly Mieszkalski, Nancy Card, and fellow veteran Tom Williams Outings Chair for the Cypress Group. Onlsow Beach Recreation area staff treated us as if we were family – providing lodging, labor and a fantastic site. Dion & Lloyd you are truly appreciated!

The Mission to Explore the Outdoors challenge was received and met by over 250 participants. The children checked in and were given their mission, which they readily choose to accept, and sent to explore. Each exhibitor had a stamp for the children to earn higher levels of exploration.

Sturgeon City came with the great flounder petting tank and information about outdoor activities and their fabulous environmental education programming. Squeals of laughter and delight were heard as the children and family explored the opportunities to be outdoors.

Next was the Sea Turtle Exhibit which included the nest beach protection, a skeleton, and a cool bag along with a great snake poster for the kids. Many families thought the display was live turtles that were just very still.

Thrifty Adventures was next, coming all the way from Charlotte, to share the love of climbing and some super cool knots for our explorers to tie.

The North Carolina Sierra Club Outings leader set up camp, literally with tents and gear.  The kids got to explore inside to see what camping would be like. They also participated in a game using a compass that was theirs to keep. The club also raffled off a family tent to one lucky family.

Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary came with Diana the coolest non-releasable marsupial around, along with a hawk, an owl, and wildlife information.

The North Carolina Zoos’ own education director drove down to share great fossils found in the state the kids were fascinated by a huge sharks tooth.

Camp Corral came to tell the families about their great programs that provide free camps for military children.

USMC MCCS Outdoor Adventures brought the rock wall and personnel to have the explorers conquer the climb. Happily, they provided gear so even the older kids (adults) could attempt the wall.

North Carolina USO brought the beautiful trailer and a beach scavenger hunt.  The group gave prizes including beef jerky to the kids.

The Play Mobile was a great addition to the festivities, it could almost be a festivity of its’ own. Packed with mud for pies, sand playing equipment, hula hoops, fort building supplies and more the kids loved it! Some had never attempted a hula hoop before and were quite entertaining.

Our Explorers returned to the desk to share their successful mission completion to be met with prizes of a magnifying glass, cool shades, a flying disc, and kite. The high fives and smiles were overwhelming. These families and children who sacrifice so much for their country were full of graciousness and appreciation which was awe-inspiring. This opportunity to coordinate and facilitate this event has truly blessed my staff and myself in being able to honor our youngest heroes our military children.