Helping children of America's military
Two Storm Lake natives are lending a hand to the nation and military in their own way this summer by aiding American children in western Europe.
Sisters Sarah and Meredith Stille, daughters of Steve and Becky Stille, will join 800 students from throughout the nation to serve as counselors at Camp Adventure, a nonprofit student-run organization based at the University of Northern Iowa. Camp Adventure offers camp programs of all varieties for children of American military personnel worldwide. Camp Adventure programs also serve NATO bases and private clubs throughout the world. With their involvement in the program, the Stille sisters will each spend the summer serving at camps in different countries in Europe.
Both sisters are no strangers to overseas travel. Sarah, who earned her undergraduate degree in leisure service programming at UNI in 2001 and is currently attending graduate school to earn her masters in leisure youth and human service administration, will leave June 6 for Darmstadt, Germany, where she plans to serve as a Camp Adventure project coordinator. This summer's trip will mark Sarah's fifth for Camp Adventure, as she has previously served at bases in Panama City, Fla., Mannheim, Germany and Kitzigen Wuertzburg and Schweinfurt; also in Germany. Sarah also served last Christmas as a program director in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Her sister's involvement encouraged Meredith, who just finished her freshman year at UNI, to follow suit.
"Sarah is how I found out about this, and I thought about what a wonderful opportunity it was to get involved on these military installations, especially after September 11," Meredith said. "What better way to help our country out than to go serve the children of military personnel. Some of these children will not see their parents for six months at a time, and this is such a good way to go about helping them out."
A Spanish major at UNI, Meredith will utilize her studies by leaving June 11 to serve Camp Adventure at a Spanish military base in Rota, Spain. Meredith said that, although the base is primarily English-speaking, she is confident of her Spanish skills after having served as a foreign exchange student in Argentina last summer.
Both feel that they will reap many benefits of their summer trips, such as a chance to see the world and the practical knowledge they will earn, but to them, the real reward will be working with the children.
"I get so attached to the kids," Sarah said. "In Mannheim, I developed a relationship with a girl who was 6 at the time, who now lives in Texas and is 8. We still keep in touch, and she always says she's going to come visit 'Miss Momma Bear.'
"I think the best part about working in these camps is that, as we're teaching them, they're also teaching us so much in return," Meredith said.
The Camp Adventure program offers many different camps for children of all ages. As a project coordinator in Darmstadt, Sarah will oversee and supervise a day camp, sports camp, and teen camp. Meredith will serve as a counselor for a day camp and an aquatics camp. To become an eligible counselor for Camp Adventure, both attended Camp Adventure College, a 60-hour development program at UNI and one of many centers throughout the nation, to earn certification in first-aid and CPR. For their training efforts, each earned 12 hours of college credit.
Despite the fact that the Stille sisters will be on military bases while their country is at war, they have no fears of attacks of any kind.
"We have always been told that the military will not put their families in danger," Meredith said. "If there is any threat at all, families and any civilians will immediately be moved off base."
Despite their distance from home, the seasoned travelers claim they do not suffer from homesickness, but only excitement and anticipation. Both encourage any eligible college student to experience the adventure that is Camp Adventure.
"I would encourage anyone of any major to do this," Sarah said. "It truly is the opportunity of a lifetime."
Anyone interested in Camp Adventure Programs may log on for more information at www.campadventure.com