Camp Happy unites homeless youth with APG Soldiers, civilians

Alijah Casey, 9, views a tick under the microscope with the help of Sgt. Natasha Sims, with the 1st Area Medical Laboratory during “Exploring the U.S. Military Day” at Camp Happy in Aberdeen, July 20, 2017| U.S. Army photo by Rachel Ponder, APG News

APG Soldiers and civilians led several interactive educational activities for homeless children, ages 6 to 14, during “Exploring the U.S. Military Day” at Camp Happy in Aberdeen, July 20.

Camp Happy is a four-week program hosted by the We Cancerve Movement, Inc., a nonprofit organization “to bring happiness to homeless, sick and foster children.” The camp, which runs through Aug. 10, was developed especially for children who are currently living at Harford Family House, a nonprofit organization based out of Aberdeen that provides transitional housing for families in need.

STEM activities

During “Exploring the U.S. Military Day,” Soldiers and civilians led several interactive science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM activities. In the morning, a group of Soldiers from the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, or 1st AML, discussed entomology, or the scientific study of insects. Led by Capt. Karin DeWitt the officer-in-charge of the Occupational Environmental Health Team, the the children viewed ticks and mosquitoes under a microscope.

DeWitt said her objective during the visit was to highlight different career opportunities.

“I think it’s a civic duty,” DeWitt said about teaching children STEM subjects. “As a child, if you can’t visualize the possibilities you will never get there. So if these children are exposed to STEM subjects, it allows them to have a clear visualization of all the possibilities in the future.”

Another 1st AML officer, 1st Lt. Julian De Castro, demonstrated how to use a Geiger-Muller, a piece of equipment used to detect radiation.

Casey Weininger, a STEM outreach specialist with the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, led a discussion about about engineering and showed the children how to build a catapult using wooden sticks, rubber bands and a spoon, which allowed them to “launch” a pom- pom. He also taught campers how to build a simple spectroscope, an instrument used to split light into separate colors.

In the afternoon Maj. Steven Brewer, with the 20th CBRNE Command, led a question and answer session about life as a Soldier and showed the campers military gear.

“As part of the STEM piece, I showed them a map and a protractor with a compass, and showed them how to plot coordinates on a map,” he said. “They did a good job with that.”

(From right) Casey Weininger, a STEM outreach specialist with the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, launches a pom-pom with a homemade catapult, while Angelina Mosley, 6, and Dustin Ricklin, 10, look on during “Exploring the U.S. Military Day” at Camp Happy in Aberdeen, July 20. During this activity, the campers created catapults with wooden sticks, rubber bands and spoons. U.S. Army photo by Rachel Ponder, APG News

He also showed the campers the Army’s primary rations, Meals, Ready to Eat, or MREs, and gave each of them the opportunity to taste part of the meal.

“I was with the children for about two hours, and they were very engaged the whole time, they had so many questions,” he said.

New learning opportunities

Alijah Casey, 9, said he enjoyed learning from the special guests.

“I like all the projects, they’re fun,” he said.

Isabella Mosley, 10, also described the day as “fun” and “cool.”

“I didn’t know you could use those things that you would normally throw away to build something fun and amazing,” she said, referring to the catapult and spectroscope activities.

Harford Family House executive director Robin Tomechko, said she is “thrilled” to build a relationship with APG personnel.

“I think the relationship is just going to continue to grow and get better,” she said.

About the We Cancerve Movement

The We Cancerve Movement, Inc., was founded in 2011 by Grace Callwood, 12, the daughter of T’Jae Ellis, a U.S. Army Research Laboratory civilian. Callwood said her battle with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 7 inspired her to give back to children in need. Now in remission, Callwood said she is committed to serving the community.

“I think having an illness opened my eyes to how much I can give and what was really needed,” she said.

The We Cancerve Movement’s all-youth advisory board planned the curriculum for the first week, Callwood said, with the theme “Young Explorers.” Activities planned during this week encouraged the children to explore the natural world, science, and future career options.

Empower4Life, a non-profit organization based out of Baltimore, will host the remaining three weeks. Subsequent weekly themes include “Superheroes,” “Health and Fitness” and “Arts.” The camp will conclude with a carnival, with activities planned by the campers, and hosted by the We Cancerve Movement.

Ellis said she is proud of her daughter for the leadership skills and compassion she has demonstrated at a young age.

“I am very excited that Grace has got a passion for community service; it is definitely one of my loves,” she said. “I am equally excited about the fact that there are so many people in Harford County who support the We Cancerve Movement.”

For more information about the We Cancerve Movement, visit For more information about volunteer opportunities with the Harford Family House, call 410-273-6700.


Story by Rachel Ponder, APG News