"We create magic moments for children that last for a life time."
This is the motto of Camp Adventure, a youth services program that works with military families by providing daycare services on military bases and U.S. embassies across the world, according to third-year University of Toledo English literature major Teresa Northcraft.
"We are a vibrant and enthusiastic organization housed at the University of Northern Iowa, but Toledo is a strong branch of the program,” Northcraft said.
Lead trainer and UT Dean of Students Sammy Spann brought the program to the University of Toledo in 2003. Being one of 13 training sites in the nation, Spann is proud of all the work UT students are doing.
Spann mentioned that this nonprofit organization helps students develop their leadership skills while assisting military kids who feel isolated. Their cartoon-themed activities serve as a form of entertainment for these kids whose families have to move from country to country every few years.
"In other words, we're kind of like a mobile Walt Disney,” Spann said.
Northcraft shared the group recruits during the fall semester, trains during the spring semester and ships out for the summer. Spann added that, by the end of their training, students from all training sites know over 120 different songs, games and arts and crafts.
The ten-week program’s airfare and housing charges are covered by the Department of Defense, which also provides a meal stipend for each member. Other expenses such as Red Cross certifications, a uniform fee, health insurance and optional tuition for the University of Northern Iowa are the responsibility of students, Northcraft said.
Northcraft, who joined Camp Adventure as a freshman, works as a day camp counselor. Her team of counselors create fun and exciting plans at the daycare center they are assigned, she said.
She works for forty hours for five days of the week. The other two days are open for students to explore the country with their fellow counselors, Northcraft said.
“It’s a challenging job, but this has, hands down, been the best experience of my life-- and part of the reason I chose to attend the University of Toledo,” Northcraft said. “The kids and families I have met are willing to lay down their lives for our country; I feel like it's an honor to serve them back.”
Spann has also traveled with Camp Adventure as a student to a total of 63 countries. This opportunity has provided him with a perspective of America from the outside, he said.
"It was life changing; it was life focusing," Spann shared.
He added that this chance allows students to live their resume as they are given the responsibility of running summer camp programs on military bases around the world. Students can meet people and remain friends with them for the rest of their lives.
Spann mentioned his favorite thing about Camp Adventure is the strong bond college students build with the children they never knew existed. On the last days, students even cry as a form of accomplishment and development.
"Getting involved and getting yourself out there to get experience and exposure is the very first and most key step to success,” Spann said.
The organization offers a variety of services on a network of U.S. military bases and embassies, Northcraft said. It is divided into subcategories, including the child development center for infants and preschoolers, day camp for school aged children, teen camp and aquatics, which involves lifeguarding and swimming classes.
During her first summer, Northcraft visited Okinawa, an island often referred to as the “Hawaii of Japan.” There, she spent her weekends scuba diving, snorkeling, climbing waterfalls, and trying sushi.
Northcraft’s most recent trip to Stuttgart, Germany this summer allowed her to visit Munich, Prague, Paris, Salzburg, Budapest and Interlaken. She advises freshmen that this is an opportunity of a lifetime.
“Camp has literally made my dreams come true, and I'm not just being selfish about it either,” said Northcraft. “I'm fulfilling my dreams while helping other people.”
Students interested in joining Camp Adventure can visit its office located in the Student Union, Room 2521A.