canoe

Kids canoe around the lake at Camp Oaks with YMCA of the Greater Long Beach Area in San Bernardino National Forrest area of Big Bear, July 17, 2018.

Shout the good news: Mountain camps will be open for needy kids this summer.

Four Long Beach youth agencies — the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach, Camp Fire Angeles and Boy Scouts — said late last week they will be opening their camps in the San Bernardino Mountains in July.

“Summer camp is open and we are thrilled,” said Marcelle Epley, president and CEO of the Long Beach Community Foundation, which has partnered with the Press-Telegram in the annual Send-a-Kid-to-Camp Fund drive to send kids to camps in the mountains.

Because of the uncertainty this year from the coronavirus pandemic, it was not clear whether camps would open, but youth officials had remained optimistic.

“Camp is exactly what our kids need right now,” said Don Rodriguez, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs. “Given the stay-at-home orders and being cooped up in their houses for the past few months, this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Rodriguez said many kids would not be going to camps without the support and donations from Press-Telegram readers.

“As we navigate recovery during these challenging times, it humbles me that this community is still so willing to support kids and teens who need us most,” Rodriguez said.

His comments were echoed by Alfredo Velasco, president and CEO of the YMCA; Georgia Sewart, executive director of Camp Fire Angeles, and John Fullerton, Scout Executive with the Boy Scouts.

“We’re really happy that we will be able to serve the needs of kids, especially at this time,” Velasco said. He said it was exciting that the Y’s Camp Oakes would open with its first kids July 5. Camp Oakes will allow a maximum of 100 kids each week throughout the summer. The kids will be in 10 units of 10 each.

Matt Garcia, executive director of Camp Oakes, said the camp will be following guidelines from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, bunk beds will not be used. Social distancing guidelines will be followed.

The Boys & Girls Clubs also will be using Camp Oakes for its members, but not at the same time as Y members, Rodriguez said.

Camp Fire’s Stewart said Camp Wintaka will be open in July. She said the need for camperships is greater than ever this year because of family stresses, including lost jobs and reduced hours.

“The power of camp in the lives of children is enormous,” Stewart said.

Fullerton said the Boy Scouts will begin with family camping on the July 4 weekend. He said the Scouts will add groups of 12 in unit camping and participate in activities as a cohort. Activities would include archery, swimming, handicraft and other programs where social distance can be maintained, he said.

“Brighter days are ahead,” he said. “Thanks to all.”

Epley said the preparation work done by the youth agencies under stressful conditions to make a positive impact and provide a relief valve for deserving youth was inspired.

As the youth agencies prepare to open their camps, it becomes even more important for readers to help with donations. Rodriguez said many of the Boys & Girls families who struggled even before the pandemic are facing “a new reality of unemployment and lost work hours.

Camp for their kids ensures one less thing for them to worry about.” On the average, a $410 donation will pay to send one child to camp for one week in the mountains.

Here’s how you can help. You may make a secure gift by using a credit card at longbeachcf.org/donate/SKC. Mailed donations can be sent to: Send a Kid to Camp, in care of the Long Beach Community Foundation, 400 Oceangate, Suite 800, Long Beach, CA, 90802. For more information: 562-435-9033 or info@longbeachcf.org.

The Press-Telegram, the Community Foundation and the youth agencies thank you in advance for making a difference in the lives of needy youngsters, especially during these difficult times caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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