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Mom's 'milagro' blossoms at Junior Blind camp: Summer Camp Campaign

Angela Marquez has become an independent, outgoing 10-year-old, thanks to the enrichment program. Her favorite activity? Reading.

June 20, 2012|By Danielle H. Paquette, Los Angeles Times

Angela Marquez runs her fingers over the Braille atlas, reading aloud.

"North America," the 10-year-old says, slowly. "South America. Pacific Ocean."

Joan Marason, director of wellness and enrichment programs at Junior Blind of America in Culver City, watches her student and grins broadly.

"That's great, Angie!" Marason says. "You're doing such a good job!"

Angela nods, shaking her dark braids. "I know," she says. "Can I go get the brailler?"

She grabs her cane, feels around the room and lifts the silver machine that resembles a typewriter. Now, she's smiling too — showing off for her teachers, as she often likes to do.

"Dear everyone in this room," she begins, talking as she types. "I love you, and I hope you have a very good night at home with your family.…"

Angela was born three months early, with a cyst in her brain. Doctors did not expect her to live long enough to crawl. Her mother, Lourdes, calls her "Angel baby" — her "milagro," or miracle.

After spending four months in Hollywood Presbyterian hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, Angela was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Her downward stare, thought to be an effect of the neurological disorder, was later discovered to be caused by optic nerve hyperplasia — an eye condition that fully blurs her vision.

Angela lives with her mother, father, Margarito, and 18-year-old brother, Omar, in a one-bedroom apartment in East Hollywood. She rarely meets other kids in the neighborhood, Lourdes said, so camp is her escape, her playland.

At Junior Blind's Summer Enrichment program, which runs eight weeks in July and August, Angela has planted zucchini and bell peppers in the garden, played a Hawaiian ukulele, learned how to make fruit pizza and kick-boarded across the 84-foot-long pool. This summer, she'll attend camp on the eight-acre property in residential Culver City for the third time, practicing reading, writing and math with specially trained teachers.

"It's an all-around great experience for the kids," Marason said. "We integrate blind children with their sighted peers, so the kids go through different lessons and activities together. They're always learning from each other."

When Angela first arrived at Junior Blind in 2009, the immensely shy 7-year-old hid behind her mother's leg.

She has come a long way since then, said Junior Blind teacher Aaron Rockwood.

"Now, she's so outgoing," said Rockwood, who has worked closely with Angela for nearly two years. "She has become so independent, and keeps getting more independent. It has been such a pleasure to watch her grow."

Angela starts camp again on July 2. Her favorite part?

"I really like to read," she says. "I like reading the books on the shelves here, all kinds of books, especially Dr. Seuss."

Through the generosity of Times readers and a match by the McCormick Foundation, nearly $1.3 million was granted to local camp programs this year as a result of the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign.

The Summer Camp Campaign, part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund, raises contributions to support 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 or by calling (800) 518-3975. All gifts will receive a written acknowledgment.

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