Operation Purple Program

YMCA of Honolulu Camp Erdman
Operation Purple Program

“Helps me relieve stress.“
Tyler, 13 years old

“It’s cool.  You can talk to them about how you miss your mom or dad and they get it.“
Katelyn, 12 years old

I feel sad but this camp helps a lot.
Amber, 13 years old, who had both parents deployed to Afghanistan 


The national Operation Purple program was created in response to the call from military parents to “help us help our kids.”  The mission of the program is to empower military children and their families to develop and maintain healthy and connected relationships, in spite of the challenges the military life can impose on families. This is done through a variety of means, including the healing and holistic surroundings of the natural environment. The program is free and open to children of active duty, National Guard or Reserve service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service and NOAA.  However, because there has been a waiting list every year, the priority has been to offer the program to children of deployed personnel first.

Camp Erdman’s participation in the Operation Purple program over the last three years has increased our strength in delivering a refined and dependable experience by combining our environmental education, stewardship, and leadership curriculum with that set forth by the Operation Purple program. We have maintained and created new partnerships with our local military across all branches, which has created awareness around the Operation Purple mission, giving us strong endorsements within our local civilian and military communities, as well as by Senator Daniel Inouye.

We have served over 1100 military dependents through the Operation Purple program over the past three years and the sizeable military population here on Oahu has been so grateful for this opportunity for their children. It’s evident from the stories told by the campers that spending a week in the company of other children from a variety of military backgrounds is truly a rewarding experience. The Operation Purple campers make new friends while at camp, and sometimes more importantly, learn how to make new friends. Our local military families are very supportive of our camp and are acutely aware of the value of sending their children to participate in the Operation Purple program. We feel that our unique setting is the perfect place to host the Operation Purple experience and allows us the opportunity to acknowledge and serve our military kids.


The majority of funding and the curriculum have been provided by the National Military Family Association, a nonprofit organization founded in 1969 by military spouses.  Their largest sponsors have been the Sierra Club and Goldman Sachs.  A few weeks ago, we received notice that due to funding cuts, they were only able to fund 10 camps in 2012.  We were close, but ultimately did not make the list which we believe was based on percentage of military population in the area.  It is less than four months before Camp is to begin, so it is with a sense of urgency that we appeal to the local community for support to continue this popular Camp that provides a respite for military families.

In 2011, we had 320 campers with 100 on the wait list.  The cost is $550 per camper.  In 2012, we hope to offer Operation Purple to 165 children at a total cost of $90,750.

Program Details

The program is an overnight summer camp of one week for children, ages 6-17. Traditional camp activities such as swimming, archery, games, arts and crafts, hikes, skits, and campfires are all incorporated into the week as the medium for producing positive change within the campers. The campers do learn to shoot a bow or swim, but more importantly, these activities are a way for the staff and campers to develop friendships while at camp. As the campers’ skills grow and they form relationships with the staff and new friends, their self-confidence and self-worth grow as well

Objectives of the Program:

  • Communication
    • Building Trust
    • Identifying Ways to Communicate
    • Identifying and Expressing Feelings
  • Outdoor Environmental Education
    • Leave No Trace
    • Local Ecology and Fauna
  • Military Experience
    • “Kids Serve Too”
    • Military Theme Day

These are some of the ways in which Operation Purple is unique from traditional camp experiences:

  • Mental Health Counselors or Military Family Life Consultants provided by the Department Of Defense
  • Operation Purple opening Ceremony (usually an opening campfire with recognition of who is in attendance)
  • Wall of Honor
  • Leave No Trace
  • My Life as a Tree
  • Military Theme Day/ Military Speaker
  • Top Ten List
  • Keeping a Journal
  • Camper/Counselor Surveys
  • T-Shirt signing


Operation Purple is a high-visibility program.  In 2011, the 3 TV stations covered Operation Purple.

This Video shows the news coverage:

2011 Operation Purple Media Coverage



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