For more than 100 years, the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles has helped young people learn to care for others--and discover that others care about them--by allowing them to work and play together at summer camp. Last year, through full and partial scholarships, the Y's Kids to Camp program was able to send 2,700 children to camp, with hopes that they would face new challenges and build confidence.
Among them was 13-year-old Allen. Allen came to the Y from a difficult situation. He lives in a high-crime neighborhood with an active drug trade, and the Y is something of a sanctuary. Several years ago, he found his mother's boyfriend abusing her and called the police. When officers saw that Allen's mom and her boyfriend had been using drugs, they were jailed, and Allen and his brothers were placed in the care of child protective services for a couple of days.
Allen blamed himself for his mother's incarceration, Y staffers say. Yet, he arrived at the Y every day with a positive attitude. It became a steady home for him as his mother worked to turn her life around. And summer camp, which he has attended for the past four years, has given him a chance to nurture others.
Allen's mother is now drug-free and employed, and he is looking forward to high school in September and playing basketball. He'll be attending Camp Whittle in Fawnskin again this summer, and might join the YMCA Camp Leadership program. Next year, he plans to be a counselor-in-training so he can help younger campers.
The Times Summer Camp program will contribute $75,000 to the YMCA this year to help sponsor camperships for kids like Allen.
Every year, readers and employees of the Los Angeles Times have sent thousands of children to camp through The Times Summer Camp Program. This year, the McCormick Tribune Foundation will match the first $1.2 million raised at 50 cents on the dollar.
It costs an average of $150 for a child to spend a week at summer camp. Checks should be sent to: L.A. Times Summer Camp Campaign, File No. 53401, Los Angeles, CA 90074-3401. Credit card payments may also be made by calling (213) 237-5771. Please do not send cash. All donations are tax-deductible. It is the policy of the Los Angeles Times and the camp program to maintain and promote a culture of nondiscrimination and inclusiveness.