Barry County home to Kids of Our Heroes Adventure Camp

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Camp owners seek to help at-risk kids CW3 Darrell Hovland and Col. Michele Hovland have over 50 years of combined military experience, and together have dedicated their future focus on at-risk kids. The couple has founded Kids of Our Heroes Adventure Camp, which includes daily activities and adventures, coupled with a counseling component, to help participants learn to cope with their feelings of fear and uncertainty. Eligible campers must be the child or sibling of a military service parent or sibling that has been killed or wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. Democrat photo/Roberts

Barry County is now home to Kids of Our Heroes Adventure Camp, a place for children ages 11-17 who have lost a sibling or parent in the global war on terror.

The camp, nestled on a five-acre parcel of land along Flat Creek near the Stubblefield Access, is a decade-old dream that finally came to fruition this year for owners Col. Michele Hovland, (retired), and CW3 Darrell Hovland, (retired).

"We've always wanted to work with at-risk kids," said Michele.

"This camp is for kids who have lost a parent or sibling in Afghanistan or Iraq," added Darrell. "We camp rough, just like military personnel, and have daily adventures. We add a counseling component to the activities, to help kids cope with their loss."

The kids-to-counselor ratio is four to two, so campers can receive individual attention. All camp staffers are combat veterans.

"That allows for a small, intimate group, with a lot of one-on-one attention," Michele said.

The week-long camp is free to kids, with the $1,200 per camper tuition being picked up through private donations.

Activities include kayaking, floating Flat Creek, zip line adventures, lantern tours of Miracle Cave at Silver Dollar City and rainy day alternatives, all incorporating a life lesson and counseling theme.

The Hovlands are both retired Army, and advocates for veterans. With a combined 50 years of service to the nation, the couple have seen too many military heroes unable to return to their families.

"We've seen kids in the front row at funerals we have attended," said Darrell. "We see that lost look and know they are asking where to go from here. We want to be there to help in that transition."

"We have a lot of people interested in the camp," added Darrell. "But we are having those initial growing pains, getting the word out. We are talking to other camps to get the word out."

Applications are accepted from eligible youth across the nation.

Volunteers from Lowe's in Monett and the Cape Fair Eagles Aerie #4278 donated a day of work on Saturday, Nov. 2, to build two platforms to hold the eight-man tents at the edge of the tree-line over Flat Creek.

"Darrell has done so much of this himself," said Cathy Stipp, coordinator of growth services for Lowe's Heroes, the volunteers who give their time and talents to worthy community projects. "When I heard about what he was doing, I knew we wanted to be involved."

"We get involved in one big project a year," said Brad Husky, store manager. "We were very happy to support the military families with this one."

"Many of our Eagles members are veterans and we do a lot of charitable projects locally," said Bill Buckley, an Eagles Aerie member. "Five of our members are here to help with the build because it's something we believe in. Several Springfield clubs also donated to the project."

Board members and staffers are all veterans, with the passion and knowledge to help kids facing uncertainty and fear overcome those obstacles.

"Our goal is to let kids know they are not alone, that we all come from the same war-torn community," Michele said. "By reaching out, we can help them start their journey of healing and they won't be alone."

For more information on Kids of Our Heroes Adventure Camp, visit www.kidsofourheroes.org or KOOHAC on Facebook. The Hovlands can also be reached by calling 417-574-6250.

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