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TIMES SUMMER CAMP CAMPAIGN

Police grant trips worth writing home about

June 15, 2008|Ruben Vives | Times Staff Writer

Jaquelyn Razo has never been to summer camp.

So when the Los Angeles Police Department's Devonshire division Police Activity League Supporters program offered her a chance to go to Camp Whittle at Big Bear Lake this summer, she immediately filled out the required forms.

"I could barely make out any of the information," said Officer Elizabeth Sandoval, director of the division's program. Commonly called PALS, it offers after-school programs and activities, and this year, she said, Devonshire will send about 50 children to area camps. Sandoval gave the forms back to 9-year-old Jaquelyn and told her that her parents had to fill them out.

"She was afraid that her parents wouldn't let her go," Sandoval said.

Jaquelyn's mother, Esther Ruiz, 43, said she and her husband were just worried about their daughter, who has never been away from home.

"But she earned her trip," Ruiz said. She said her daughter has never missed a day of school. At home, Jaquelyn does her homework, reads a book or practices her writing when no one tells her to. "I've told my other children, who are older, to be more like her," Ruiz said.

Sandoval said she wants the children to feel proud of their accomplishments. "We want them to say, 'I earned this trip.' " To do that, many children enrolled in the PALS program accumulate points by helping clean the Devonshire youth center, getting good grades and strong report cards and attending reading or writing clubs. This year, 45 points were required to win a trip to camp, the cost of which -- about $370 -- would make it unaffordable to many parents. "Razo is good to go," Sandoval said.

Jaquelyn has been crossing out the days until camp on her calendar. She doesn't leave until Saturday, but she's already stuffed a backpack -- with clothes, shampoo, a toothbrush and a picture of her parents -- and parked it in the living room. She said she'll miss her mom and dad but is looking forward to camp.

"She just needs a new sleeping bag," said Jaquelyn's mother, who mentioned that her daughter's feet stick out of the sleeping bag that she uses as a bed in their two-bedroom apartment in Northridge. Jaquelyn doesn't have a room of her own, as she shares the apartment with her parents and three older siblings.

The Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign gave $11,000 to Devonshire PALS this year, thanks to $1.7 million raised last year by the campaign.

The annual campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which matches all donations at 50 cents on every dollar. Unless requested otherwise, The Times fund makes every effort to acknowledge donations of $100 or more received by Sept. 1.

All donations will be acknowledged by mail in three to four weeks. Donations are tax-deductible as permitted by law. Addresses will not be released or published. For more information, call (800) LATIMES, Ext. 75771, or e-mail familyfund@latimes.com.

Mail donations (do not send cash) to:

Summer Camp Campaign

File 56984

Los Angeles, CA 90074-6984

Or donate now at: latimes.com/summercamp

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

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