The CFB Shilo Military Family Resource Centre will be joining organizations from across the country to celebrate military children during the second annual Teal Up at the end of April.
Teal Up is designed to honour children in military families, said Shannon Chapman, Shilo Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) youth program co-ordinator. The initiative launched in Shilo in 2021. Upon finding success in the community, it will be going national this year.
"There was nothing for our military children to give them a day of recognition," Chapman said. "The day is just for them."
To mark the 2022 celebrations, a series of events are planned and Teal Up has expanded to about 26 locations across Canada.
In Shilo, on April 28, the MFRC will be hosting a show of support walk to mark Teal Up. Community members, including military police, the fire hall, branch control and other local representatives, will be walking and wearing teal in front of both schools on base and carrying banners as a show of support for military youth.
"They have support from their community and we are there for them. We’re really excited for that. We’re going to have some fire trucks, some police cars and different transport things," Chapman said. "It’s going to be a show of support parade."
In the evening, a free barbecue will take place and resiliency kits will be given to young people in attendance. Chapman described the resilience kits as "survival bags" for youth to build during the barbecue that include different resources, fidget items, colouring pages and other activities.
The goal of the kits is to enhance the skills they have gained through their different life experiences.
"A lot of these children, they have the skills already and it’s helping them acknowledge them and bring them out as a strength," Chapman said.
The MFRC has already seen more than 100 communities register for the Teal Up festivities. The final date to register for the Teal Up barbecue is April 20.
In preparation for Teal Up, a flag-raising will take place on April 19 at 1 p.m. in front of the family resource centre.
Chapman hopes the children that participate in Teal Up feel empowered in their lives.
"It’s about the children and their empowerment and strength," Chapman said.
"They have these skills, they live in this life day-to-day, but they’re just so used to living in that life that they don’t realize that this has made them resilient."
These young people have faced unique challenges compared to their peers, she said, but have been able to flourish and succeed in overcoming any adversity they encounter.
Military children are often uprooted as they follow a parent or guardian’s military career to different locations. This can pull them away from their extended families and friends as they are constantly on the move.
"There’s a constant adjustment to a lot of unknown," Chapman said. "It’s a different lifestyle."
Being a child in a military family comes with its own unique adversity that can help build resiliency in military children. Youth learn to be resourceful and adapt to new situations. The Teal Up campaign wants to celebrate and help build on those essential life skills.
The Brandon Sun reported in April 2021 that military families in Canada and abroad included 81,400 children under the age of 18, according to Lynda Manser’s 2017 report, "State of Military Families in Canada." In CFB Shilo, there were 904 children out of the 2,752 military members and families.
An estimated 10,000 military families are relocated through postings, while 8,000 move to new provinces, accounting for one-quarter of all regular forces military members, according to Vanier Institute of the Family figures from 2018.
The Teal Up T-shirt campaign is in recognition of the sacrifices military children make during their school careers to support their parents or guardians’ military careers.
Chapman compared it to the pink shirt worn during the anti-bullying campaign, only participants will be wearing teal shirts.
April marks the Month of the Military Child, and Teal Up was born out of the idea of celebrating youth in the Shilo community, Chapman said. Family resource centre staff were looking for different ways to honour the occasion and came across Purple Up — a United States day of recognizing military children.
Purple Up sparked an idea to create a Canadian version of the event, Chapman said. The colour teal was chosen for the Canadian event because it represents all the colours of the Canadian military.
"It’s Canadian and it recognizes military children across Canada and their resilience."
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun