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A change of scene, a chance to talk

Times Staff Writer

When Kevin Sosa contemplated what summer camp would be like for the first time, he imagined something truly rustic, with visions of staying in a tent, falling asleep to the sounds of nature, maybe even swatting the mosquitoes away.

“I never had been camping, and I wanted to see what it was like,” said Kevin, 13.

When he got to camp in July, he was surprised that he got to stay in a nice cabin with a group of boys his age. Though there was a river running nearby and lots of trees, Kevin was happy with the creature comforts of the camp.

“It was more than I expected. I think it was good for me because I really don’t go out of the city much.”

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Kevin, who lives in East Los Angeles, found out about summer camp though Plaza Community Youth Services, an organization for at-risk youths and families suffering from the effects of substance abuse problems.

For the first time, about 20 kids from Plaza Community Youth Services got a chance to go to camp for a week, joining about 175 children ages 8 to 12 at the Salvation Army’s Camp Gilmore in Malibu Canyon near Calabasas.

For most of the kids from Plaza Community, it was their first time outside a two-mile radius of home, said Lucio Torres, a case manager at Plaza Community who works with Kevin.

“Believe it or not, most of our kids have never gone camping -- most have never left their community in East L.A.,” Torres said.

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Torres stressed the importance of camp for the kids because it gives them a chance to get away from their environment and discover new things. Campers participate in activities such as archery, swimming and hiking.

“Free time” was Kevin’s favorite activity at camp because it allowed him to relax and mingle with other kids he met from all over Southern California.

“You have two hours to do whatever you want,” Kevin said. “I just walked around and talked to people.”

Thanks to $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.

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

Donations are tax-deductible as permitted by law. Addresses will not be released or published.

For more information, call (800) LATIMES, Ext. 75771, or e-mail familyfund@latimes .com.

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nicole.loomis@latimes.com


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