Brandon wants to see a real bear

Times Staff Writer

For Brandon Moran, who heads back to summer camp Saturday for a second straight year, getting back to nature means getting the chance to see a real, live bear.

“I’m excited,” said Brandon, 9. “I want to learn about how they hibernate and how they get a whole bunch of food before hibernating, and I want to learn about nature and science.”

Though Brandon knows bears typically only come out at night, at Camp Arbolado he’ll get to do an overnight hike, cookout, sleep under the stars -- so a sighting is possible.

Brandon, who lives in La Habra with his foster parents, brother and sister, found out about the camp through the Boys & Girls Club of La Habra, where he spends almost every day playing.


Eighteen children from the club will join about 100 campers, ages 8 to 13, at YMCA’s Camp Arbolado for one of two weeklong sessions. The camp is at Barton Flats, in the San Bernardino National Forest, at an elevation of 6,600 feet.

Many campers come from low-income neighborhoods in the greater Whittier area.

“We have children that come year after year, and we also try and identify low-income kids that really could benefit from a week at camp,” said Bob Warnock, executive director of the camp.

Traditional camp activities include swimming, canoeing, archery and a rope course.


Campers can also participate in educational programs, including Native American studies and a geology program in which campers study rock formations.

“They’re seeing stuff they’ve never seen before,” said Warnock, adding that for many kids it’s the first time they will see trees so big they can’t put their arms around them, including ponderosa and Jeffrey pines.

Although younger campers can often get homesick soon after arriving, with the help of some tried-and-true remedies, including pairing campers up with buddies and giving the campers some responsibility in their cabins, most are having fun by midweek.

“In 35 years, I have never sent a child home because he was homesick,” Warnock said. “If it’s an 8-year-old, it can be tough the first couple days, because they miss their mom.”


Besides being on the lookout for bears, Brandon said, he hopes to make some new friends who will hang out at the pool with him. “I like playing Marco Polo,” he said, “because I never get tagged.”

Thanks to the $1.7 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign, about 8,000 children will go to camp in Southern California this summer.

The Los Angeles Times Family Fund is a fund of the McCormick Foundation, which matches all donations at 50 cents on the dollar.

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