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Summer Camp Campaign

Briefly, he can be like any boy

July 17, 2009|Juliette Funes

Last year Shaquenta Smith had to wake up her 7-year-old son, Adolfo, to tell him that his father had been killed. She gave birth to another son the next day.

Living in a single-parent household and having two younger siblings, Adolfo, now 8, has felt he needs to be the man of the house.

"Since Daddy's gone I have to be the big boy," he said. "I have to protect my mama, my brother and my sister. I try to keep them away from danger by watching what's around them."

Smith, a beautician, knows Adolfo is too young to carry that responsibility. She sees how the loss of his father has affected him.

"He's more sad, to me, and he really leans on me now," his mother said. "He has his breakdowns every now and then."

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Another world

However, Adolfo is able to escape his Long Beach neighborhood, which is afflicted with gang and drug activity, at the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach, where he plays sports with his peers and practices once a week with Lakers assistant coach Craig Hodges.

Through the club, Adolfo will get the chance to spend a week this summer at the sports camp session at Camp Gilmore in Malibu with about 115 kids ages 7 to 16.

He will go swimming, hike and further hone his basketball skill.

"He can get a little playtime with the kids and won't have his mind on the things that went on," Smith said. "He doesn't really have to come home and sit around and think about things. He gets to enjoy life."

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A place for change

Camp Gilmore encourages kids to develop their leadership skills and try new things, said Karen Reside, the director of program development.

"Many of the children do not have the opportunity to escape from their adverse environments," she said.

"It gives them a chance to let down their guard and allows them to be kids and do normal kid things."

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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