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TIMES SUMMER CAMP FUND

Protective 8-year-old can find a mentor

Lupe battles nightmares spurred by his father's abuse toward his mother. Camp will give him a chance to have a male role model.

June 25, 2004|Michael Ordona | Times Staff Writer

Until recently, Lupe was terrorized by nightmares about monsters. It got so bad for the wide-eyed 8-year-old with unruly black hair that he was afraid to go to sleep.

"His nightmares were a manifestation of his fears and worries about his family," said school-based counselor Bonnie Pack of Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara.

Lupe's mother, Aurora, said she was a victim of domestic violence, and her four children witnessed their father physically abusing her.

As a result, the kids became obsessively protective of her.

The father is currently incarcerated at Lompoc Federal Penitentiary on drug-related charges.

Through an interpreter, Aurora said that, although the family moved to the area from Mexico two years ago to be near him, she and the kids' father are not likely to reconcile.

"The children really want to know where Dad is, and now that we're here, how come we can't see him," she said.

Lupe loves cars and trucks and wants to be a mechanic when he grows up. He's fascinated by hydraulics; he wants to make his mother's car hop up and down.

"He's very passionate in saying that when he gets older, he's going to buy his mom a car, things they don't have now," said Sonia Lopez, a family advocate at Family Service Agency.

He's also a dedicated student who says he would rather be in school than on vacation.

He loves math and, though he has only been in the U.S. for two years, is working at grade level.

But the kids' fears for their mother's safety remain.

Said Lopez, "She wants them to do things, because they just stay by her side and don't want to go out.

"He would really benefit from a positive experience, to know that life's not just what he's been seeing."

Lupe will go to camp next month courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign.

"There are a lot of male figures who are very strong and positive there ... role models," said Lesa Larson, camp counselor for the Salvation Army. "All it takes is one."

In the meantime, Lupe is no longer having the nightmares. His mother credits Family Service's Pack.

Pack said she taught him "ways of relaxation and also changing his dreams, entering his dreams and taking control."

And beating the monsters.

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

The annual fundraising campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which this year will match the first $1.1 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 $50 or more will be acknowledged in The Times.

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