Camp Chance is Growing!
We are happy to report that the 13th annual Camp Chance was another great success! Once again we returned to Walker Creek Ranch with our largest group of campers ever: a total of 72 children attended the week-long residential program held July 11–15, 2011. We hosted 60 campers (between 11–13 years of age) and twelve Leaders-In-Training, our Camp Chance alumni program for kids between 14 and 15 years of age.
We are very proud of this program and how it's changing the lives of our youth. The kids love to stay connected with the program and this desire is what inspired us to create the Leaders-In-Training (LIT) Camp Chance alumni experience. The program started last summer as a group of six and in 2011 doubled in size to twelve campers! The LIT’s help facilitate the Camp Chance program but they also have their own activities which are geared towards leadership development. For example, they learned basic orienteering skills that helped them while on a scavenger hunt at Fort Cronkhite in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and they also experienced an overnight tent camping trip away from the main Walker Creek campus. In an effort to lead by example, the LIT’s were responsible for serving the meals to Camp Chance campers, as well as managing the clean up. Ashton, a Camp Chance alum and LIT from Marin City said, "This program has helped me to grow up and be a more responsible person. I like all the things we do and it’s a reward for staying out of trouble."
Your continued support enabled us to provide this camping experience for kids whose families are not ordinarily able to afford expensive residential summer camps. Because you have joined us in this community partnership, we were able to meet all the operating costs for the 5-day session of Camp Chance. Despite these challenging economic times, we raised $48,000 from 276 generous individuals and businesses which all went towards the $68,000 it takes to fund Camp Chance and give at-risk youth an opportunity for a better future.
LITs heading out for the orienteering excursion at GGNRA
In addition to helping children experience summer camp, another goal of Camp Chance is to foster trust and rapport between kids and peace officers. This year marks the fourth time Marin County Deputy Sheriff Dave Gallegioni has attended Camp Chance. He enjoys hanging out with the kids by Turtle Pond and marvels at what a "fun and rewarding experience Camp Chance is for both the kids and adults. Everyone makes great connections that I continue to see when I run into a camper while on patrol in the community." Always very moving is Thursday night's closing circle, when the kids talk about what they gained from participating in the program. For many youth, being at Camp Chance is an opportunity to escape a stressful neighborhood or difficult family situation, enjoy nature and make new friends.
San Rafael Police Corporal Roy Leon, the San Rafael School Resource Officer and a member of the SRPD SWAT Team, and Deputy Sheriff Domenick Yazzolino of the Marin County Sheriff's Office Special Response Team (SRT) provided the kids with the always popular SWAT presentation. This team consists of highly trained deputies and police officers who are specially equipped to deal with crisis situations that are beyond the scope of normal patrol operations. Campers listened to Corporal Leon and Deputy Yazzolino describe the different types of equipment used, as well as the special training that each member of the team undergoes. This year, SRPD Detective Corporal Scott Eberle brought out the SWAT robot. This device looks like an armored remote control car with rubber treads for wheels. It's equipped with a camera system, a robotic arm and an all-terrain tracked platform designed for SWAT. Detective Corporal Eberle put the robot through its paces, including righting it remotely after a camper flipped it on its back. After the presentation, the kids were given the opportunity to check out some of the equipment more closely, and even wear some of the special gear used by SRT/SWAT members.
Watching the SWAT robot
That same afternoon, campers also had a visit from Marin County Firefighters assigned to the Hicks Valley Fire Station, which is located between Point Reyes and Petaluma. This station provides protection for numerous ranches and is dispatched into Sonoma County routinely as a mutual aid resource.
This year campers were able to climb aboard the fire engine and water tender that the firefighters drove to Walker Creek Ranch. In addition, a few of the kids were outfitted in turnout gear used when fighting a fire in a building or out in the wilderness. The firefighters did a great job of explaining how the gear is used to fight fires while keeping the first responder safe from harm.
Members of the Marin County Search and Rescue Team also presented to the campers. They talked about what they do, described the training they receive and displayed some of their gear.
Trying on the turnout gear
Other presenters included members of the Marin County Sheriff and San Rafael Police Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) teams who taught the campers how to dust for fingerprints, use a metal detector to sweep the ground for buried coins, and make molds of footprints. Deputy Rebecca Leonard, a member of the Marin County Sheriff CSI team, has volunteered previously at Camp Chance and enjoys working with the kids. She echoed a sentiment held by many on the CSI team when she said, “This presentation gives kids the opportunity to try out some of the CSI skills that they see on television. It also teaches them that crimes don’t usually get solved in the space of an hour. It’s a good reality check about solving crimes.”
Deputy Leonard demonstrating how to dust for prints
The San Rafael Police Youth Services Bureau provides kids a life skills component through an interactive workshop. Because bullying continues to be a hot topic for kids, the Youth Services Bureau intern counselors presented another workshop on the topic over the course of the week to each age group of campers. The interns used role-plays to help kids effectively deal with insults, slurs, threats and other tactics that bullies may use to victimize peers. Also addressed was how to handle cyber bullying and stop rumors. The interns helped the children look at their own behaviors towards others, as well as when to turn to adults for help. Kids were able to express themselves in a safe environment with the guidance of experienced intern therapists who have chosen to cultivate working with adolescents as an area of expertise. The life skills component of Camp Chance continues to be well received and one that we will continue to offer.
YSB intern counselor and campers at the bully workshop
Always popular is the day trip to Drake’s Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. After breakfast, the campers load up on buses for the ride out to the beach. It’s not unusual for the kids to see wildlife, deer and jack rabbits abound, and for many of the campers, this is the first time they have experienced nature and open space unencumbered by buildings or freeways. Staff and peace officers are quick to set up games of catch and football. If the surf is cooperating, kids play in the water under the watchful eye of staff. The LIT’s help set up and serve a delicious BBQ lunch of hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and various other detectible treats. Everyone works up a hearty appetite and it's not unusual to see some napping on the beach before another round of games.
A beautiful day at the beach
In an effort to bring the message and goals of Camp Chance to more people in our community, as well as meet the ever increasing operating expenses of the program, we’ve come up with a couple of new and very exciting events.
Our first annual winemaker dinner was held last February — hosted by San Rafael Joe’s and Schug Carneros Estate Winery of Sonoma. Guests were greeted at the door with a glass of Schug sparkling wine where they had the opportunity to mingle, enjoy appetizers and peruse the silent auction items available for bid. All items were donated by Schug Carneros Estate Winery and included magnums of Pinot Noir, the flagship wine of Schug, and a private tasting in Schug’s wine cave. The bidding was fierce throughout the evening! A delicious four-course meal was prepared by the chefs of San Rafael Joe’s and Walter Schug, the winery’s proprietor, enthralled guests with anecdotes of his career, as he described wines that were perfectly paired with each course. Close to sixty people attended this inaugural event.
Our next winemaker dinner is scheduled for Saturday, March 10, 2012 so SAVE THE DATE! Your ticket purchase will help us continue to fund this worthwhile program. Contact Rebecca Kuga at 415-485-3025 to make your reservations.
Winemaker Walter Schug at San Rafael Joe's
Camp Chance is moving into the digital age by launching our new website www.campchanceconnect.org. We are very excited about this method of better communicating with our supporters. You’ll be able to read about current events, see lots of photos and videos, and donate securely online. We also promise to never share your e-mail address with other organizations.
Camp Chance and our new Leaders-In-Training program are very popular with the kids in our community but this popularity has created a double-edged sword; quite simply, taking more kids costs more money. Camp Chance has never turned away a child who wants to attend camp and we don’t want to start now. Because we want to continue this phenomenal program, we are turning the spotlight on to you, our donors and asking you to consider increasing your donation this year. It is because of you that at-risk kids in our community can attend Camp Chance and be exposed to the activities and people who can help these kids make healthy choices for a better life.
Help Keep the Magic Alive
The preparations for Camp Chance 2012 are already ongoing and we will be returning to Walker Creek Ranch with another awesome program for the kids. Despite the planning and logistics that goes into making Camp Chance happen, we want to take a moment and give thanks to all of our donors. Through your support we provided a wonderful summer experience for seventy-two children from our community.
It now costs $930 to send one child to Camp Chance for the 5-day program. Our reserves are low but the need for this program continues to grow. Please share what you can by making a tax-deductible donation with our secure online form.
Infused with enthusiasm and hope for the future, we look forward to working with you for the continued welfare of Marin’s children.
Thank You For Sending Me To Camp Chance!
San Rafael Chief of Police
Robert T. Doyle
Marin County Sheriff