The country star tells PEOPLE his visit to Camp Hometown Heroes was "overwhelmingly emotional"
Credit: Tamra Schneider

Hunter Hayes sure knows how to make the most of his time off.

While on a recent break from his tour, the country singer paid a surprise visit to Camp Hometown Heroes in Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization for kids who’ve lost a parent or sibling who served in the U.S. military. Hayes spent several hours with the 80 campers, during which he performed a song, participated in an impromptu Q&A with the children and took photos with each cabin group.

“There are no words that really say how grateful we are for our service men and women and their families. Seeing a camp like this that is there for the families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice is overwhelmingly emotional,” Hayes tells PEOPLE of his experience at the camp.

“I so appreciate the chance to spend time with these incredibly strong and inspiring kids and the volunteers that are there for them in such a big way.”

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Camp Hometown Heroes co-founder Neil Willenson says Hayes’ visit meant a great deal to the campers. “With his warmth, sincerity and kind nature, Hunter provided our campers with an experience they will remember for decades to come,” Willenson tells PEOPLE. “We thank him for honoring fallen heroes by providing joy to the children they left behind.”

Willenson co-founded the camp with philanthropist Jim Kacmarcik in 2013. The organization serves children ages 6-17 who’ve lost a parent or sibling who served in the U.S. military, and provides them with opportunities for fun and healing. The camp has grown from serving 62 kids in 2013 to 162 in 2016.

For more information about Camp Hometown Heroes, visit the organization’s website at