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SUMMER CAMP CAMPAIGN

Where Destiny finds stability

July 29, 2009|Juliette Funes

For most of the 7 years of her life, Destiny has lived with uncertainty about where she and her siblings will end up.

When she was 11 months old, Destiny and her older brother and sister were removed from their parents' custody and placed in foster care. For five years, they have been living in Rosemead with their foster mother, Maria Gonzalez, and three other foster children.

At one point they were going to be put up for adoption; now they may go back to living with their biological parents.

"They ask me about it, and I've been talking to them about it," Gonzalez said, adding that she's trying to ease their transition.

Although she spends time with her parents through monitored visits, Destiny has formed a close bond with Gonzalez.

"She sees me like mommy," Gonzalez said. "She's always telling me, 'I love you, Mommy,' and I feel that she's happy here."

Living with unsteadiness hasn't been Destiny's choice, but for at least a week this summer she will let her troubles go when she sets off to Blue Sky Meadow, a camp nestled in Big Bear.

In her second trip to camp, Destiny will gain some independence.

"It [will] be a good experience for her," Gonzalez said. "She came back real happy last time. She was real excited about all the things she did."

About 300 kids ages 7 to 11 from the Woodcraft Rangers, an organization offering after-school programs for inner city youth, will be able to enjoy the new camping ground.

The event, previously held in Castaic, allows campers to explore the trails and master basic outdoor living skills. A trained naturalist will also teach the kids about indigenous plants and wildlife and have them participate in bird watching.

"For some of our kids, it's the first time they can be kids without having to care for older siblings or pressures of dealing with the community in general," said Cathie Mostovoy, the chief executive officer of Woodcraft Rangers. "It also helps them to create new friendships and they get to be independent without all the adult pressures. They really get to have a good time."

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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