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TIMES SUMMER CAMP CAMPAIGN

A new attitude after Pathfinder Ranch

May 21, 2008|Tony Barboza | Times Staff Writer

Anthony Rosa's outbursts were so bad that he was kicked out of 12 day-care centers in eight months.

Anthony, 7, who was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, would throw violent tantrums when he was afraid or confused and once threw sand in a teacher's eyes because he didn't get a turn to ride a tricycle during recess.

His mother, Michelle Rosa, came to expect a call at any time asking her to take him home for bad behavior, making it hard for her to keep a full-time work schedule.

But since last year, when Anthony started at the after-school youth development program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tustin, there haven't been any calls. It was there that he began to control his behavior and find a better outlook on life.

"They've been able to gain his trust," his mother said.

This summer Anthony will take another big step.

Anthony and about 40 other low-income children at the Boys & Girls Club will go to camp for a week at Pathfinder Ranch, a forested campus in the mountains near Idyllwild.

Of all the outdoors activities at the ranch -- horseback riding, archery, canoeing, swimming and rock climbing -- Anthony wants most to fish.

His mother said his fervor for angling took hold when she first took him camping when he was 3, and he observed people casting with rods and reels.

"I want to catch fishies," Anthony said. "All I need is a hook."

He should be able to reel in a few at the camp's private lake.

Tara Booher, the Boys & Girls Club's program director, can empathize with Anthony's singular goal. When she went to the same camp at his age, all she wanted to do was ride a horse.

Summer camp, Booher said, can give a big boost to children like Anthony who struggle in social interactions with others.

"You meet so many new people, you have to learn to make friends quickly," she said.

Now she tells children stories of her experience to encourage them to go. Once they get past the anxiety over leaving home for a week, they don't need much prodding.

"They pack all their clothes and they're so excited they forget to change their clothes and shower," she said. "When it's summertime again they always ask 'when can we go to camp?' "

The Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign gave $10,500 to the camp last year. Thanks to $1.7 million raised last year by the campaign, about 8,000 children will go to camp in Southern California this summer.

The annual campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a 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 in the newspaper.

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 information, call (800) LA TIMES, 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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tony.barboza@latimes.com

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