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TIMES CAMP FUND

Bubbly Amber finds a home

After bouncing from one family to another, the energetic girl, 12, finally finds a warm welcome and some security in foster care.

August 27, 2004|Michael Ordona | Times Staff Writer

Words pour out of energetic Amber in a torrent. She's quick to laugh and her interests are all over the map, from archeology to veterinary medicine to her after-school drama club.

"Maybe I'll be Hilary Duff's best friend in her new movie," she says.

The 12-year-old from San Bernardino County has moved around a lot. When she was 6, her father died of heart failure that may have been brought on by drug abuse. Her mother had already removed herself from the family; her whereabouts are still unknown.

"I remember what he looks like. I remember eating tomatoes with him, whole tomatoes on a plate with ranch dressing in the living room," Amber says of her father. "I don't remember anything about my mom."

Amber bounced around from foster home to foster home, then settled with her aunt for five years. However, the aunt became overwhelmed with family troubles and was unable to continue to care for the girl.

"Her husband had a heart attack," Amber's foster mother, Robin, says of the aunt.

"I never heard of such a thing," interjects Amber.

"He had triple-bypass surgery," Robin says.

"Oh yeah, I remember that," Amber agrees, quickly.

Amber has lived with Robin and her two teenage children for a little more than a year.

Things have gone much more smoothly there than with the previous foster families.

"I feel blessed that I have Amber, I truly do, out of all the children I could have gotten," Robin says. "She really wants to make something of herself."

Amber has never been to camp, but she's going this summer courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign.

The program she has chosen at the Girl Scouts' Camp Tautona near Angelus Oaks is called " 'SHOW'ing Off," in which the kids put on their own plays, including doing their own costuming and directing.

Jessica Lawrence, fund development associate of the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council, says, "She came through this with a different attitude than a lot of children who have gone through the same situation. She's looking forward to things and hasn't let life knock her down yet."

"I think she feels pretty secure in the house and knows that she can stay as long as she wants to," Robin says. "Amber will be with us. We can plan ahead, knowing that she's going to be here."

About 11,000 children will go to camp this summer, thanks to $1.6 million raised last year.

The annual fundraising campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which this year will match the first $1.1 million in contributions at 50 cents on the dollar.

Donations are tax-deductible.

For more information, call (213) 237-5771. To make donations by credit card, go to latimes.com/summercamp.

To send checks, use the attached coupon. Do not send cash.

Unless requested otherwise, gifts of $50 or more will be acknowledged in The Times.

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