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Times Camp Fund

'Island' Adventure Transports Needy Kids

August 14, 2000|JAMAAL LaFRANCE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Imagine children dressed in flower-print T-shirts, grass skirts and sandals, tanning under palm trees and drinking the milk from a chopped coconut. But wait, this is supposed to be summer camp--hiking boots, not sandals, mosquito repellent instead of tanning lotion, and roasted marshmallows for a snack.

Children at the Stanley Ranch Camp in Castaic enjoyed a full week of paradise when the rustic 200-acre campground turned into an island vacation, all part of the 11 weeklong themes set to end Sept. 16.

Operated by the Woodcraft Rangers, Stanley Ranch camp is designed to meet the needs of underprivileged children by developing character, accountability, trust and responsibility in its campers. "From the minute they get off the bus, we're working on group activities," said Woodcraft Ranger Chief Executive Cathie Mostovoy.

The Stanley Ranch Camp is one of the larger camping programs that has served children sponsored by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Fund since its inception in 1954. Through donations from Times readers and employees, the camp fund has given $85,434 to send more than 680 needy kids to the ranch this summer.

Founded in 1922 by Ernest T. Seton, Stanley Ranch Camp offers children 7 to 14 the opportunity to have an outdoor experience--and to take a break from the responsibilities they are given at home. "A lot of them are playing an adult role at home," said Mostovoy. "That's really too much responsibility at such a young age."

In the one-week span, kids will learn about plants and animals in their natural habitat, compete in cabin games and learn positive conflict resolution. There is also a petting zoo. The campers will enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including archery, hiking, swimming, rope courses and rock climbing, which is the most popular attraction, said Mostovoy. "We really do things for kids they can't do at home."

The Stanley Ranch staff is composed of trained counselors who are visiting from different countries. "Having an international staff is an excellent tool in teaching the kids diversity," said Mostovoy.

Campers can look forward to team games that encourage self-confidence and responsibility. Mostovoy believes that as kids work in teams, they must encourage each other, rather than put each other down.

Woodcraft administrators hope to teach kids "life crafts" that they'll eventually use but definitely will go home talking about.

It costs an average of $125 for a child to spend a week at camp.

Because The Times pays for the fund's administration, and Bank of America provides accounting services, all donations are used for camperships. The $22 million raised during the last 46 years has allowed more than 350,000 Southland children to attend summer camp.

Checks, made out to The Times Camp Fund, should be sent to: Times Summer Camp Fund, File No. 53401, Los Angeles, CA 90074-3401. Credit card payments can also be made by calling (213) 237-2124. Please do not send cash. All donations are tax deductible.

Unless donors request otherwise, gifts of $25 or more are acknowledged Tuesdays in this section.

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Jamaal LaFrance is a Times summer intern with the camp fund administration.

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