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Summer camp a confidence-builder for teen

A girl who has benefited from the care of Boys & Girls Clubs of Huntington Valley gets to continue her progress at Pathfinder Ranch.

August 02, 2011|By Sophia Lee, Los Angeles Times

It was only three weeks before summer camp was to begin that Gricel Mendoza, program director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Huntington Valley, broke the news to Taylor Evans: She was one of the 15 members chosen to attend a weeklong session at Pathfinder Ranch.

The 13-year-old's freckled face lighted up with delight.

"Yay!" she exclaimed, reaching over to hug Mendoza. "Thank you!"

"It's been so hard for me to keep this from her," said her mother, Toni Mickelson. She had known about the news earlier but kept silent so that Taylor could personally hear it from the club's staff members.

"They are like her second moms," Mickelson said. "They're just wonderful. They've been there for Taylor forever."

The club has been a blessing, Mickelson said, not just because she works two jobs — at Disneyland and at Albertsons — but also because Taylor has suffered from bipolar disorder since she was a toddler. Anything can trigger what Mickelson calls "her situations."

With medication and constant therapy, however, Taylor's condition has greatly improved, her mother said, especially under the care of the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Taylor joined the Fountain Valley-Kingston branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Huntington Valley, a nonprofit organization dedicated to youth development, about six years ago. Her supervisors have witnessed her progress, which convinced them to send Taylor to Pathfinder Ranch summer camp for a third time.

"She's been here for so long, and we've seen her grow up," said Lucy Brosche, director of the Fountain Valley-Kingston branch. "You want to give her that [camping] experience because you've seen the ins and outs of her development, the successes and the hardships and the dedication she has to the club."

Brosche has seen the positive developments from Taylor's past trips to camp.

"She's gained so much more confidence and you can tell by the way she talks, the way she carries herself," Brosche said. "She's gone up and down in certain friendships, but after camp you can tell that she's more confident in all her friendships, especially the one she has with herself. She's become more of a leader than just a follower."

Through the generosity of Times readers, along with a match by the McCormick Foundation, more than $1.6 million was granted last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign.

The Summer Camp Campaign, part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund, supports programs that provide thousands of Southern California's at-risk children ages 7 to 17 with enriching, educational and fun camp experiences.

Donations are tax-deductible as permitted by law and matched at 50 cents on the dollar. Donor information is not traded or published without permission. Donate online at latimes.com/donate or by calling (800) 518-3975. All gifts will receive a written acknowledgment.

sophia.lee@latimes.com

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