The 14 children and teen-agers who performed on the Camarillo Community Center stage Sunday were flushed with excitement from the crowd's standing ovation as they piled into a bus for their short ride home.
"We're going to have a party because we did really good," said Paul, 16, one of the members of the Camarillo Chorus Line, a singing group of young patients from the Camarillo State Hospital.
The group's performance was part of a weeklong series of events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the hospital for the emotionally disturbed and mentally ill. The hospital's party, public tours and an exhibition softball game Sunday were part of a continuing effort to improve the public's understanding of what goes on inside the sprawling campus-like facility, hospital executive director Frank Turley said.
For Paul and other members of the singing group, the show is part of their therapy at the facility, said Jim Dziwak, a music therapist and director of the group. "The goal isn't the performance, but learning how to work together and to build self-esteem," he said.
In the 50 years since the Camarillo hospital opened, advances in medicine and in therapy procedures have changed the way the mentally and emotionally ill are treated, Turley said.
"We want to show people that state hospitals are not something out of the movie 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,' " Turley said. "We offer a very progressive, very modern and complex treatment program."
Community leaders such as Camarillo Mayor Sandi Bush and state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) joined the crowd of more than 200 at Sunday's party. On display were art and poetry created by patients, as well as some items manufactured at the hospital.
Patients earn money by sealing and packaging products such as cookies, plumbing hardware, balloons and artificial fingernails, said Virgie Yates, director of vocational services. Firms such as Nabisco and 3M have expressed satisfaction with the work done by Camarillo workers, and patients get an opportunity to be productive and learn new skills, he said.
There are 1,235 patients at the hospital and about 2,200 staff members. But as many as 1,200 people from throughout Southern California volunteer between two and 40 hours a week at the hospital, said Jerry Scheurn, Camarillo's volunteer coordinator.
"We have people from as young as 8- or 9-year-old Girl Scouts to people in their 80s," Scheurn said. "We try to use whatever skill volunteers have. They read to people or take them on walks, whatever they need."
Most often, Scheurn said, "they can just be a friend."
'We want to show people that state hospitals are not something out of the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" '
director, Camarillo State Hospital