Over 60 take part in inaugural Camp Hometown Heroes

CAMPBELLSPORT (WITI) -- It is officially summer, and with kids out of school for the year, some parents are looking into summer camps for their children. In Campbellsport, a unique camp is underway -- meant to help kids who deserve a week of fun after dealing with tragedy.

Campers came from all over the country to take part in the first-ever Camp Hometown Heroes in Campbellsport, Wisconsin.

On their first full day at camp, kids hit the pool, participated in team building games and played together.

The fun activities generated the usual smiles seen at summer camps this time of the year, but there is nothing ordinary about the group of campers at Camp Hometown Heroes.

"This is not an obligation.  I feel it's a privilege to help these kids," Neil Willenson said.

Willenson is the co-founder of Camp Hometown Heroes. All of the kids at this summer camp have lost a family member who was serving our country.

"These are kids that have lost a father, a mother, an aunt, or a brother or sister," Willenson said.

Camper Lillian from Idaho lost her father five years ago, when she was just five years old. She is one of over 60 campers taking part in the camp's inaugural year. She says she's happy to connect with kids she can relate to.

"Not a lot of people in my school know what it is like to have a family member die. I get made fun of because I had a family member die.  And every single year, Memorial Day or his birthday or those days I start to cry because I always remember my dad and what he did for this country," Lillian said.

Less than a day into camp, Lillian already made a new best friend.

"My friend, she's in the same cabin as me. She lost her dad five years ago as well, and it was also in Iraq," Lillian said.

"At Camp Hometown Heroes, do you need to talk about your loss? And the answer is no.  But many of the kids choose to talk about it.  And we offer art therapy, we offer music therapy and we have optional discussion groups," Willenson said.

All of the campers attend camp free of charge, thanks to sponsorships.

More than 20 of the campers are from Wisconsin.