Open Camps, an initiative of Toc H SA, has been providing community camps from Victor Harbor for more than 80 years

Veterans Family Camp participants, mentors and Victor Dragons volunteers.
Veterans Family Camp participants, mentors and Victor Dragons volunteers.

Open Camps, an initiative of Toc H SA has been providing community camps from Victor Harbor for over 80 years.

As the need for social, recreational and wellbeing programs deepens in our community, Open Camps has taken a wide look at those that can benefit from the connection that comes from a positive camping experience.

Understanding the needs of ex-service personnel led Open Camps to its inaugural Veterans Family Camp in September.

With a focus on families and resilience, Open Camps Veterans Family Camp provides a social and wellbeing targeted camp of 4 days, supported by industry mentors. The whole family becomes the centre piece of the camp as it is often the partners and children that also experience a response to the Veterans involvements.

"While the camp is not intended to replace the general supports of the veteran, we understand that many ex-service personnel have experienced PTSD. The camp is centred in experiences that build resilience and supports positive and healthy family lifestyles," Chief Executive of Open Camps Adam Hooper said.

As an organisation, Open Camps takes its guiding principles from Toc H. Toc H was formed in Belgium during the First World War by The Rev. Phillip 'Tubby' Clayton. In 1915, 'Tubby' established a recreation centre for young people going to and from the front lines of war.

"Understanding our rich history, it was easy for us to utilise our experience as a community services provider to build this important camp for our ex-service personnel," Adam said.

"As a society, we owe a great deal of thanks to our veterans that have served our country and the Open Camps - Veterans Family Camp is our way of giving back."

Open Camps runs several community programs from Victor Harbor including Cooinda - Bunks, Tents and Events for schools and community, GLOW Kids Camp for children needing a break, Camp 38 an Autistic Family Camp and The Shift - supporting young adolescents at risk.

Activities at the Veterans Family Camp were centred around the family and the Victor Dragons were happy to lend a hand in creating a memorable experience.

Meeting at Encounter Lakes, a team of Victor Dragons volunteers led the camp participants in a come and try Dragon Boat experience. Comprising paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow of the boat, with the drummer facing toward the paddlers, participants enjoyed a positive fun team experience.

In addition to Dragon Boating, the families enjoyed meals together, family Olympics, movie nights and the all important, Open Camps Bonfire.

"The Veterans Family Camp was a huge success and our inaugural families all walked away with valuable memories of family time spent together," Open Camps Veterans Family Camp Program Director Debbie Damis said.

"We can't wait to hold the next camp soon."

The success of the camp was measured by the many positive responses, happy faces and family connections that were made.

Open Camps is now looking to work with other community groups and corporate and business organisations to ensure the camp becomes a regular part of its community service.

For more details, or ways you can support the Open Camps Veterans Family camp, email office@opencamps.org.au or call 1300 445 910.

PTSD is a psychological response to the experience of intense traumatic events, including those that threaten life.

For military veterans, the trauma may relate to direct combat duties, being in a dangerous war zone, or taking part in peacekeeping missions under difficult and stressful conditions.

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