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SUMMER CAMP CAMPAIGN

Shy Jazmine blossoms outdoors

The teen enjoyed making friends and creating happy memories at Camp Fox on Catalina Island.

August 05, 2009|Juliette Funes

Having endured a chaotic life full of partying, drugs and living on the streets in Westminster, camp was a fresh start for 16-year-old Jazmine.

She was one of 10 teens from American Family Housing, a transitional housing program that provides counseling and life-skills training to low-income families, to join the Anaheim Family YMCA at Camp Fox on Catalina Island in July.

"It was a life-changing experience because they were so loving, so giving, so open to everything I had to say," Jazmine said. "They noticed me and recognized who I am."

The environment gave her the chance to let her guard down, something she hasn't been able to do in a long time, said her father, Kenny Smith.

"She has enough bad memories," he added. "It was time to have a good one."

The teens, from troubled backgrounds, were in an atmosphere where they could be normal kids and participate fully in nal activities, said Tina Starr, the camp coordinator. "No one knows about their personal stories," she said. "Jazmine was able to just blossom."

Which is something the shy girl didn't think would happen in the short week away from home. "Going there made me feel like I was wanted in life and made me feel like I was worth something," she said.

Jazmine previously had lived with her drug-addicted mother, who neglected her and kicked her out of the house. For two months, she roamed the streets and stayed with friends.

She later reached out to Smith, recently released from prison, who had been battling a 22-year drug problem.

"I wanted help, and I didn't want to live the life I was living before," Jazmine said. "I wanted my dad to help me."

For 14 months, Smith has remained clean and sober, attends parenting classes and lives with Jazmine and her four siblings in a transitional home provided by the organization.

With $1.8 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 Summer Camp Campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation fund, 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 info, call (800) LA TIMES, Ext. 75771, or e-mail familyfund@latimes.com.

Mail donations using the attached form (do not send cash), donate by phone at (800) 518-3975 or donate online now at latimes.com/donate.

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juliette.funes@latimes.com

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