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A camp for kids coping with war wounds of a parent

Camp COPE has helped more than 1,000 children in places ranging from Texas to Florida.

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Day to heal: Waldie and Tanner, sons of injured vets, put their hopes and fears in a snow globe.

Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor

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Kevin, a 6-year-old with a buzz cut and long eyelashes, says he wants to lose an eye ... to be like his dad.

His father, 1st Sgt. Kevin Walker, survived a bomb blast in Iraq four years ago. Now, he's brought his son to the Army base's middle school here for a day of fun, therapeutic activities designed to help children cope with the feelings stirred by such injuries.

In the past three years, the program has helped more than 1,000 children and teens in locations ranging from Texas to Florida. It is one of several nonprofit efforts that have cropped up to aid families of wounded veterans.

"Kids are experiencing these grown-up problems and they don't have the ability to understand it or process it," says Sarah Balint Bravo, a play therapist who cofounded Camp COPE. The acronym stands for courage, optimism, patience, and encouragement – the qualities that the program aims to foster with its unique curriculum for the children of injured or deployed service members.

The small nonprofit in Dallas is a labor of love that Ms. Bravo and cofounder Elizabeth Reep pursue outside their regular jobs. The idea came to Ms. Reep, a clinical social worker, after she saw the toll her husband's war injuries took on her two young stepsons. "I realized there weren't enough services for kids," she says, "and thought that would be one thing I could do to give back as I got through the struggle myself."

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