Today marks the beginning of the annual fund-raising campaign for the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Fund. Now in its 33rd year, the fund has enabled more than 227,000 needy youngsters to attend a week of camp. For many, it is their first experience with rural surroundings.
The 10,000 children nominated annually for the Camp Fund have contended with a variety of difficult situations--broken homes, physical or sexual abuse, poverty, disabilities, gang violence or drugs.
Over the years, reader donations to the fund have totaled nearly $8 million. Last summer's campaign raised a record-breaking $731,908.
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 comics page Monday through Friday and toward the back of the View section on Sunday.
"The Times is proud of its tradition of serving needy children throughout the Southland, providing thousands of youths the opportunity to attend camp," said Tom Johnson, publisher and chief executive officer of The Times. "Readers' contributions make a difference in the lives of these youngsters, opening up a whole new world to them and offering them a brighter outlook.
"The Camp Fund campaign is also an excellent example of the spirit and caring of the people of Southern California, who respond so generously and willingly to helping these youngsters."
According to youth service officials involved with the program, a week in the positive, nurturing environment of summer camp can make a profound impact on a child's life. For many, the experience offers guidance and inspiration for a better life.
Jeff Greaves, a former recipient, said in an interview last summer that he was grateful to the Camp Fund for giving him the experiences and learning opportunities that are so important to a child.
Greaves, who attended college on academic scholarships, serves as a volunteer counselor each summer.
"I think a lot of good things are accomplished in working with others," he said. "Camp still benefits me, and if I can benefit others, I feel good."
Though The Times does not own or operate any camps, summer camp funds are distributed to nearly 200 Southern California youth agencies. These agencies operate camps approved by the American Camping Assn., which sets standards for facilities, programming and personnel.
The staffs of these organizations select the youngsters who receive camperships. The neediest youngsters, certified by guidelines established by The Times and United Way, are accommodated first. Priority also is given to children who have earned some portion of the average cost of $105 for a week at camp.
The Times absorbs all administrative costs, and Crocker Bank donates all accounting services, ensuring that all money collected by the fund goes directly to children's camp fees.
Some of the agencies receiving funds are the
Salvation Army, Woodcraft Rangers, Boys and Girls Clubs, Jewish Big Brothers, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.
Handicapped children attend 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 90299. 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 Los Angeles County Business License Commission.