Today marks the beginning of the 32nd annual fund-raising campaign for the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Fund.
Over the years, the Times Summer Camp Fund has enabled thousands of underprivileged children throughout the Southland to enjoy a week at summer camp, an outdoor experience many of them could otherwise scarcely dream about.
Beginning Monday, The Times will publish a series of stories profiling some of the youngsters served by the Camp Fund. The articles will appear opposite the comic page Monday through Friday and toward the back of the View section on Sunday.
These are children who live under difficult and often tragic conditions. All are poor, and many suffer from broken homes, physical or sexual abuse or neglect. Since 1954, readers have lent these special youngsters a hand by contributing to the fund and making the dream of summer camp a reality.
About 217,000 Children Sent to Camp
Reader donations have raised more than $7 million, sending about 217,000 children to camp since the Camp Fund's inception. Last year, a record $659,000 was collected, benefiting more than 10,000 Southern California youngsters.
"The Times is proud to provide this service to needy children throughout the Southland," Tom Johnson, publisher and chief executive officer, said. "The contributions of our readers can make a difference to these children, who rarely venture beyond the realm of their own poverty. Summer camp opens up a whole new world, offering them a brighter outlook on the future."
According to youth service officials involved with the program, a week away in the positive and nurturing environment of summer camp can make a profound impact on the life of an underprivileged child. For many, it provides an alternative for a better life that can serve as inspiration for years to come.
"One of our kids made a remarkable turnaround because of his experiences at camp last summer," Joyce Van Der Eyken, project coordinator for the Bellflower Youth Services Bureau, said. "Before going to camp, Tony's attitude was negative toward school, and he was constantly fighting with other children. However, Tony has since become involved with the center's swimming and track teams, his grades are improving and he was recently voted into student government by his peers."
Though The Times does not own or operate any camps, summer camp funds are distributed to more than 180 Southern California youth agencies. These agencies operate camps approved by the American Camping Assn., which sets strict standards for facilities, programming and personnel.
The staff of these organizations selects the youngsters receiving camperships. The neediest youngsters, certified by guidelines established by The Times and the United Way, are accommodated first. Priority is also given to children who have earned some portion of the average cost of $105 for a week at camp.
Because The Times absorbs all administrative and fund-raising costs and Crocker Bank donates accounting services, all the money collected by the fund goes directly to children's camp fees.
Some of the agencies receiving funds are the Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs, Woodcraft Rangers, YMCAs and YWCAs, Boy and Girl Scouts, and Camp Fire Councils.
Handicapped children attend special camps operated by agencies such as the American Diabetes Assn., the Kidney Foundation, the Sickle Cell Research Foundation and the Crippled Children's Society of Los Angeles County.
Readers who wish to contribute should send their tax-deductible donations to the Times Summer Camp Fund, Department 99845, P.O. Box 99000, Marina del Rey, Calif. 90200. Unless anonymity is requested, the names of contributors sending $10 or more will be listed in The Times beginning next Sunday. No door-to-door solicitation has been authorized or will be made.
The Times Summer Camp Fund drive is conducted in compliance with the Social Services Department, City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles Public Welfare Commission.