ANGOLA, NY- Two On Your Side's Daybreak loves to celebrate the "Great Kids" that make Western New York a better place to live. This week featured the kids who share a unique bond at Operation Purple Camp at Pioneer Camp and Retreat Center in Angola.
More than 100 children who are part of military families in the deployment cycle come to the camp for a week during the summer.
"It's very stressful, a lot of anxiety in some of these kids. But when they come here to camp we say 'just be kids'," said Camp Pioneer executive director Alex Knowles, who just retired from the Army after serving 28 years.
Kelsi McElroy, 15, of Maryland, started coming to the camp when she was in the 2nd grade in Niagara-Wheatfield. Both of her parents are in the Air Force. She's moved around a great deal and says coming back to her friends at Camp Pioneer is like coming back home.
"We're very open people because we know that our friendships aren't going to last forever because we might not be living in that state forever. So we bond very easily," said McElroy.
Special counselors are also at Camp Pioneer to help the children talk and reflect. They especially focus on the Gold Star kids, who lost a loved one in the military.
Fifteen-year-old Robert Dikcis of Wheatfield lost his brother Alan Dikcis, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2010.
"We are still mourning, but every day is getting better," said Robert.
By being surround by kids just like him, Robert says he can fight through the pain.
"I get a sense of hope that I will meet more people everyday that will help me grow as a person," he said.
Robert is now a Counselor-in-Training so he can help other kids just like himself.
Thanks to local and national sponsors, all of the children attend Operation Purple Camp week for free. Camp Pioneer gives the children an opportunity to not just form a summer friendship, but also a lifelong bond.
"There's not a lot of stability in a military life. And that's what we're trying to do here. Give them stability for a week. Just a time to get away," said Knowles.
If you know of a "Great Kid" who should be featured on Channel 2's Daybreak, email email@example.com or call 716-849-2216.
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