Dianna Davis was going through the hardest times when her youngest child was born, so she named her Salvation, "for something to look up to."
The industrious 10-year-old has lived up to her name. For the last five years, the family has supplemented Davis' disability income by selling homemade scented candles in front of grocery stores on weekends. The money is used to pay for food and utilities. Salvation, who claims to sell more candles than her older brother and sister, and her siblings share the rest of the profits to buy school supplies or go to the movies.
Salvation's positive attitude and drive to succeed despite obstacles will help her meet future goals, said Michael Bautista, the family's Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino case manager. The family has had much to overcome: more cross-country moves than Salvation can remember, her mother's frequent hospitalizations, the parents' divorce and a recent seven-month stay at a homeless shelter.
"The shelter, it was, like, a great experience to go through," Salvation said, after pausing to find the right words. "There were a whole bunch of kids there, free cakes at birthdays, and at Christmas we got boomboxes and candy."
Now that she has graduated from elementary school -- with honors no less -- she's free to take her turn in the wilderness. The Community Action Partnership and the Children's Fund are sending Salvation to Camp Nawakwa for a week with help from the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Fund.
Her 13-year-old brother and 12-year-old sister visited the Big Bear camp last year while she stayed back to finish her year-round school. There are more needy kids than the charities can send to camp each year, so each child can go only once.
The 45-year-old mother suffers from a lung condition that put her in the hospital three times during their stay at the shelter. The last time Davis was hospitalized, Salvation had to stay with her grandmother for five weeks. At one point, she didn't know whether her mother would live, yet the sixth-grader still maintained her focus and did well in school, Bautista said. Salvation added, "I don't worry about her, because I know she's going to come out."
The family was able to leave the homeless shelter and rent an apartment in January. Although the family has no phone and must take the bus to get around town, they're enjoying their new freedom.
About 11,000 children will go to camp this summer, thanks to the $1.4 million raised last year.
The annual fund-raising campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which this year will match the first $1 million in contributions at 50 cents on the dollar.
Donations are tax-deductible. For more information, call (213) 237-5771. To make credit card donations, visit www.latimes.com/summercamp. To send checks, use the attached coupon. Do not send cash.
Unless requested otherwise, gifts of $25 or more are acknowledged in The Times.