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TIMES SUMMER CAMP CAMPAIGN

A week of adventure with friends

August 22, 2008|Nicky Loomis | Times Staff Writer

For the past five summers, Nelson James has kept an inventory of the animals he has seen during his favorite hike at camp: a lizard, a deer, some spiders and, this year, a snake.

"I wasn't scared," said Nelson, 10. "It's like an adventure."

Besides the animals, Nelson is drawn back to Circle V Ranch Camp because it's like a home away from home.

"It's like family over there," said Nelson, who lives in Cudahy, near Bell Gardens, with his mother and older sister, who also goes to Circle V.

About 140 campers, ages 7 to 13, spend one of eight weeklong sessions at Circle V, 18 miles north of Santa Barbara near Lake Cachuma. The camp is run by the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, Council of Los Angeles, which provides programming for underprivileged children and the homeless.

Younger campers stay in cabins, while the older ones sleep in tents for a more rustic experience. The children choose the activities they want to participate in during the week, including swimming, hiking and archery.

"The big thing is it builds self-esteem and independence," said camp director Raymond Lopez. "They go home with the ability to do things they didn't think were possible."

At the end of the week, Nelson and his new friends always exchange phone numbers so they can keep in touch.

"The experience is good," he said. "I think about it a lot."

Thanks to the $1.7 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign, about 8,000 children will go to camp in Southern California this summer.

The Los Angeles Times Family Fund is a fund of the McCormick Foundation, which matches all donations at 50 cents on the dollar.

Donations are tax-deductible as permitted by law. Addresses will not be released or published. For more information, call (800) LA TIMES, Ext. 75771, or email familyfund@latimes.com.

Mail donations using the form at right (do not send cash) or donate online now at latimes.com/donate.

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nicole.loomis@latimes.com

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