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SUMMER CAMP CAMPAIGN

Diving into a carefree time

August 26, 2009|Juliette Funes

Living in an apartment in Stanton with her hard-working mother, Lilyanna Figueroa, 9, rarely gets to go swimming or spend time with her friends. But that wasn't the case for five days in July.

In her second trip to camp, Lilyanna went to the "Water Fun" session at Camp Scherman in the San Jacinto Mountains. Operated by the Girl Scout Council of Orange County, the 700-acre rustic camp site hosted 166 girls. Campers participated in beach games, swimming, canoeing and outdoor cooking.

Wanting Lilyanna to spend time outdoors, interact with kids her age and not spend a week bored at Grandma's house, her mother, Yvonne, hoped a week at camp would help.

"Usually, I'm working all the time and don't get vacation time, so I thought this would be really fun for her," Yvonne said. "I spend time with her, but you know kids. It's always not enough."

Yvonne, 26, was a teen mom who had to drop out of high school to help support herself and Lilyanna. She works at Home Depot full time and goes to school part time to earn her high school diploma. Yvonne also plans to attend college.

"It would be nice to be with someone and have more financial help, but aside from that it's good," she said.

But from Lilyanna's perspective, life with a busy mom and an absent father hasn't been too great, Yvonne said.

Lilyanna had developed a close bond with her dad three years ago, when they spent every weekend together for seven months. But then he went to jail.

"She was really upset that she couldn't see him anymore," Yvonne said. "She's young. She doesn't understand, and I didn't tell her why he's in there."

However, Yvonne said the camping experience helped Lilyanna take her mind off things.

"Being away at camp puts girls outside their usual comfort zone and challenges them to test their limits and learn new skills," Gail Ellis-Olds, the communication director of the organization, said. "They have to interact with girls they never met before and work in a team. They start to feel more confident and open to new interests and abilities they didn't even know they had."

With $1.8 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign, approximately 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 more information, 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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