MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The holidays can be hard when you're missing a loved one, but Camp Hometown Heroes, based in Grafton, stepped up to try to make Thanksgiving special for children who have lost a loved one serving in the military.
Camp Hometown Heroes is a national free week-long overnight summer camp for children who’ve lost a parent, sibling or other loved one who served in the U.S. military and died in any manner: combat, accidents, illness or suicide.
The inaugural "Camp Hometown Heroes at Sea" sent children who attended Camp Hometown Heroes and their families on a week-long Thanksgiving cruise that took off last Friday, November 21st.
Alexis Dampier was four years old when her dad, Army Specialist Grant Dampier gave the ultimate sacrifice.
"It`s kind of hard because I don`t really remember much of him and I would like to know him more," Alexis Dampier said.
Alexis Dampier is one of dozens of children who took part in "Camp Hometown Heroes at Sea." All are working through the pain of losing a loved one.
"Your dad and your mom are heros to all of us, and we want to say thanks," Camp Hometown Heroes co-founder Jim Kacmarcik said.
"We can never ever bring these children`s dads and moms and brothers and sisters back -- but what we can do is ensure that throughout their life, they`re given the opportunity to heal and that they feel the embrace of this entire community and this entire nation," Camp Hometown Heroes co-founder Neil Willenson said.
What is typically a week-long camp based in Milwaukee has set sail. On board the week-long cruise, families were offered an art therapy course, grief counseling and an on-board memorial.
"We want to give them outlets to remember and honor that loved one," Lindsay Dusold, a grief counselor with Kyle's Korner said.
Camp Hometown Heroes is able to provide the healing cruise through its owners' generosity, as well as donations from the public. Camp Hometown Heroes hosts well over 100 children during each summer camp -- and those children come from all across the United States. There's currently a waiting list for next year's camp.
CLICK HERE to learn more about Camp Hometown Heroes.