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Outdoors session brings brothers independence

Times Staff Writer

Betty Fields and her family opened the door one morning to a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, who told them they had to leave their apartment. They were instructed to leave all their belongings and told that they could return in 30 days to collect their possessions.

After going to a local church for help, Fields and her six youngest children moved to the Salvation Army’s Westwood Transitional Village.

Two years later, Fields has lost all her belongings and hasn’t been refunded the $1,800 in rent she said she paid before she was removed from the apartment.

“It was a hurtful thing,” she said. “Every night I sat up thinking about it and crying. We’re starting all over again.”

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Fields and her children moved from the shelter in June to their own five-bedroom apartment in Compton. She is taking computer courses and classes that count toward her high school equivalency degree.

“I felt real, real good to be in my own place,” she said.

Living in a shelter and losing all their possessions were not the only difficulties the children have endured. Deandre, 14, never knew his father, who died at 43 of pneumonia.

But despite the hardships, Deandre has his sights on becoming a video game designer or computer programmer and will attend Centennial High School as a freshman this fall.

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On a recent Friday afternoon, Deandre sits with his brother Bobby, 12, playing a wrestling video game, his muscular characters doing high-flying flips off the arena ropes. He is wearing an orange T-shirt from this summer’s Salvation Army Camp, bearing autographs across the back from fellow campers wishing him well.

The boys went to camp for six days and already Bobby is eager to go back. At camp, Deandre was a fan of outdoor sports, including mountain biking and riding the zip line strung between two tall trees.

“He’s lucky he didn’t hurt himself,” Fields said. “But at camp, they definitely learned how to take care of themselves. Now they help me around the house and help with the cooking.”

Deandre and Bobby were among the 12,000 children who went to camp this summer, thanks to $2.1 million raised in the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign last year. Donations this season will ensure that just as many deserving children get the camp experience next summer.

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The annual fundraising campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which this year will match the first $1.2 million in contributions at 50 cents on the dollar.

Donations are tax-deductible. For more information, call (213) 237-5771. To make donations by credit card, go to latimes.com/summercamp.

To send checks, use the attached coupon. Do not send cash.

Unless requested otherwise, gifts of $50 or more will be acknowledged in The Times.

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