Posters of the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean hang on the walls of Samantha Ryckman's small bedroom in Alhambra. In a Bettie Page lunchbox, she keeps photos of her father, who died of diabetes when she was 8, as well as his wallet with all the credit cards and cash still inside.
"I think I got all my music taste and what I like right now from him," she said of her father, who owned a collection of Beatles albums. "I'm happy that I at least got time with him before he passed away."
It has been nearly six years since her father died, but Samantha, now 13, remembers the costumes he made for her and her brother Russell, 9. One year, he made an oversized Tweety Bird head out of newspaper for her Looney Tunes character.
"The kids would always win first place in the costume contests," said Samantha's mother, Azalea Ryckman. "He made sure that they always had the best costumes."
Since the death of Samantha's father, Ryckman has had to work two jobs to pay the bills, often laboring seven days a week. She owns a store near USC that sells clothing and handmade crafts from South and Central America. It was in her mother's store that Samantha first became passionate about Chicano culture and history and began reading about Frida Kahlo, Che Guevara and Cesar Chavez. She hopes to attend USC and major in Chicano studies and history.
Five days before she leaves for summer camp, Samantha has begun to lay out her clothes on her polka-dot bedspread, including pajamas, shorts, her Boys and Girls Club T-shirt, and an Oakland A's jersey she recently purchased.
Samantha will attend Camp Round Meadow in Angelus Oaks for a week. For two years, Samantha has been attending the Boys and Girls Club and has heard stories from her friends of the great time they had at camp -- sliding down a zip line, swimming in the pool and dancing to a DJ during a camp dance.
"It will make her childhood more exciting and give her something to tell her friends about," Ryckman said. "She will have more memories to share with her friends and eventually her own kids."
Samantha is among the 12,000 children who will go to camp this summer, thanks to $2.1 million raised in the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign last year. Donations this season will ensure that just as many deserving children get the camp experience next summer.
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 $1.2 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.