Former P.O.W. Jessica Lynch and the National Military Family Association Kick Off New Camp Program for Children of Deployed Military

Camp Funding Provided by Sears and the Jessica Lynch Foundation

The National Military Family Association (NMFA) and Sears, Roebuck and Co. today unveiled a new summer camp program for children of deployed military parents. Announced by Jessica Lynch, former P.O.W. and program spokesperson, Operation Purple is the first camp program of its kind, bringing together children from all branches of the armed forces to interact with each other and address deployment-related stress.

Lynch made the announcement at a grand opening ceremony in Wernersville, Pa., home of Camp Keystone Courage, one of the camps in the program. Operation Purple will run 11 week-long, overnight camps across the United States and one in Guam. Nearly 1,000 children, ages 6 to 17, will attend the camps from June through August 2004.

Sears provided funding for the camps as part of a $2 million contribution to the military community through NMFA. The company's support for military families is part of the Sears American Dream Campaign's commitment to strengthening families, homes and communities nationwide. This funding, along with a donation from the Jessica Lynch Foundation, will allow the children to attend the camps free of charge. Preference will be given to children who have experienced, or are experiencing, long periods of separation from a deployed family member.

"With record numbers of military personnel deployed, military families will welcome this valuable opportunity for their children. Fear for a deployed parent's safety and personal loneliness is often internalized by children with deployed family members," explained Candace Wheeler, president of NMFA. "That is why we have designed activities at each camp to address the emotional needs of the children with an emphasis on team building, therapeutic art projects and other group activities that will engage children and encourage them to share their emotions. NMFA is pleased that Sears, along with the Jessica Lynch Foundation, wanted to be involved with this program."

"Kids are my thing. I realized that I could help military children from all services by lending my support to the Operation Purple program. It is important that children realize they too are serving our country by supporting their moms and dads while they are away," said Lynch, whose Foundation assists children of soldiers who have served in the military.

"Operation Purple is the perfect example of what Sears hoped to accomplish when it provided NMFA with $2 million to respond, in part, to some of the needs of military families," said Robert J. O'Leary, senior vice president of public relations and government affairs for Sears. "We recognize that military service often is accompanied by an emotional impact on the children of those who serve. We hope these camps will make a profound and memorable difference in their lives."

In addition to Lynch, representatives from the Department of Defense, NMFA Board of Governors and Sears attended the opening ceremony for the camps.

For more information about Operation Purple camp locations, dates and activities, visit the NMFA Web site at .

About NMFA

NMFA is a predominantly volunteer-operated 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with a dedicated group of volunteer Representatives, based around the world. These representatives are the "eyes and ears" of the Association. Through their daily lives they embody the military lifestyle, including active duty, reserve, Guard and retirees. They also interact, educate and inform military families of their benefits. In so doing, they contribute to the Association's mission: to improve the quality of life for all military families through education, information and advocacy.

About the Sears American Dream Campaign

Sears' partnership with NMFA is part of the Sears American Dream Campaign, the company's multi-year, $100 million commitment to strengthen families, homes and communities. From helping low- and moderate-income homeowners nationwide outfit and maintain their homes, to assisting victims of natural disasters, to providing thousands of children with new apparel, the Sears American Dream Campaign is making a meaningful difference in communities across the nation.

SOURCE: National Military Family Association; Sears, Roebuck and Co.

CONTACT: Lauren Rebeiz of National Military Family Association,
+1-703-931-6632, or ; or Aly Goodwin Gregg, Contact for
Jessica Lynch, +1-304-284-5003; or Lisa Gibbons of Sears, Roebuck and Co.,
+1-847-286-5506, or

Web site:

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