Funding For the Future: How the Community Campership Council Spurs Valuable Life Experiences
Sometimes kids need a break. A break from reality, a break from their parents, a break from a relentlessly challenging or stressful situation.
Sometimes what helps, and what heals, is a week or two spent in nature, surrounded by friends and mentors in a supportive camping environment.
Every day for 50 years, the Community Campership Council has taken this into consideration by providing the means for many deserving kids from diverse backgrounds to go to camp.
Since 1966, more than 72,000 kids have received this special and meaningful opportunity. Just last year, nearly 500 kids accepted funding to go to approved non-profit day and residential camps all across San Diego County. But the need for these experiences remains greater than ever.
“There are groups of kids here in San Diego who have no experience of the outside, kids who have no sense of what outdoors is…some have never even seen the ocean,” says Ann Desmond, a CCC board member of more than 10 years.
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It’s the CCC’s goal to change that, through funding in the form of “camperships.”
This funding gives foster kids a chance to reconnect with their siblings separated from them while under the care of another designated caretaker, kids with hemophilia the chance to discover that they’re not so alone after all, and for some, the simple gift of receiving three meals a day and a roof over their head at night.
The CCC serves many kids who come from low-income families at or below the poverty line. The nonprofit organization works with 30 local resident and day camps to provide a variety of experiences for these kids and for a brief moment, a home away from home.
“It makes a big difference in their lives!” says Beth Huss, who’s been with CCC for more than 30 years. “They realize they can do things without their parents.”
Here’s how it works:
• Qualifying families interested in sending their child to camp can find the best one to suit their child’s needs from a list of 30 accredited, not-for-profit camps on the CCC’s website.
• The applicant must be between the ages of 6 and 17.
• He or she also needs to meet the guidelines for receiving free or reduced lunch through the California Department of Education standards.
• Families select the camp of their choice and contact that agency for an application and financial aid form.
• The camps assess what financial contributions they can provide to help send the child to camp, and the CCC helps to bolster that funding through camperships to qualifying kids.
Additionally, the CCC works with the Boys & Girls Foundation to administer vouchers worth $250 toward enrollment at the day or resident camps. The CCC also funds counselor training programs in partnership with the day and residential camps, giving kids the opportunities to become leaders and help pave the way for younger campers through mentoring.
The organization’s goal this year is to help even more kids go to camp, and to provide this opportunity to more homeless youth.
Why are these camping experiences so important for San Diego’s diverse youth population?
Camping brings an appreciation of nature, gives kids a chance to make friends and socialize, increases self-esteem, teaches life skills and more.
For many, a week spent at camp is a life-changing experience.
Catherine Crider, a former Counselor-in-Training director at Camp Oliver who worked there for six summers, says she’s seen the changes and happiness these camperships brings to kids in need firsthand.
“I saw lots of campers come to camp on camperships,” Crider says. “Some were children who lived in vehicles normally or who had just lost a parent. There is an amazing transformation that occurs when these children are allowed to really be children and have fun in a safe environment. The stress is lifted for a week and to see these children free of such a heavy weight is incredible.”
Community Campership Council received a grant from SDG&E Environmental Champions Awards. The impact of this grant was 165 children got outdoors close to nature, away from technology and participated in human powered activities. A survey of those attending San Diego County Office of Education’s Outdoor Education program (6th grade camp) tells us 85% made new friends, 83% learned something new and 100% got outdoors next to nature. The study of science in the natural world develops among these children an appreciation of nature, creates a deeper understanding of science concepts and provides an opportunity to explore their independence in a safe educational and fun environment.