Good Times This Summer!
This summer marked our 17th year and it was another success! Your support enabled us to provide this camping experience for kids whose families are not ordinarily able to afford expensive residential summer camps. We returned to Walker Creek Ranch with 68 campers and seven alumni counselors-in-training (CIT’s) for the week of July 11 – 15, 2016.
In addition, we recruited eleven seasoned camp counselors all over the age of 18, who worked in close partnership with the CIT’s and two of them were “home-grown” young adults who were Camp Chance campers themselves and returned as paid employees.
Another Camp Chance program alum and counselor, Genesis Ortitz-Rubio, recently applied for a job as a cadet with SRPD and she’s currently involved in the interview for employment process. Genesis graduated from the Marin County Sheriff’s Department Youth Academy program this spring and she also says that her experiences with Camp Chance have helped to spark her interest in law enforcement. We’re very happy to be able to offer adult alumni the opportunity to return as employees and help guide and inspire youngsters.
Building Lasting Trust
Another goal of Camp Chance is to reduce juvenile crime. We accomplish this in part by building trust and rapport between kids and the peace officers involved with the program. A core group of police officers, deputy sheriffs and other first responders participate in Camp Chance every summer. The kids really enjoy getting to know the officers and the friendships that are forged last well after camp has ended. Marin County Sheriff Sergeant and former School Resource Officer Domenick Yazzolino has attended Camp Chance for 16 years and is a strong supporter of the program.
“Camp Chance for me has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my law enforcement career,” says Officer Domenick Yazzolino. “I have the ability to work with allied law enforcement agencies within Marin County to make a difference in a child’s life. I have been doing Camp Chance for over 13 years and I have seen so many kids turn their lives around for the better and blossom into an amazing adults. At camp you show these young troubled youth that law enforcement officers and deputies are just normal people who are compassionate and care for their well being while sharing the same interests in sports, activities and even pranks. Camp Chance really brings out the best in kids. You see this amazing transformation but you also develop a strong bond with that child which stays with you for a lifetime. The magic that happens at Camp Chance is something that has to been seen and can only be explained by attending camp. I look forward every year to building strong bonds with these kids and effecting change!” In addition to participating at camp, Domenick is a regular attendee at our March winemaker dinner fundraiser and helps promote tickets sales to ensure that the event is always a sell-out.
And They’re Off!
Once campers settled into their cabins, met their cabin mates and took swim tests, it was off to the first of many interactive first-responder activities. On Tuesday afternoon the kids met members of the Marin County Sheriff and San Rafael Police Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) teams who taught the campers how to dust for fingerprints and make a mold of footprints. Later that same day, kids were introduced to Officer Phil Melodia and his K9 partner, Ares, who demonstrated how they work together as a team to catch bad guys and keep citizens safe from crime. As focused as Ares can be when he’s working, when the collar’s off he’s just a sweet family pup who loves to be around kids.
SWAT Team Demo
San Rafael Police Officer Anthony Scalercio, a new member of the SRPD SWAT Team, and Sergeant Domenick Yazzolino of the Marin County Sheriff’s Office Special Response Team (SRT) provided the kids with the popular SWAT presentation on Wednesday morning. 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 Officer Scalercio and Sgt. Yazzolino describe the different types of equipment used, as well as the special training that each member of the team undergoes and then they got to try on some of the gear.
The Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT) member and psychotherapist Rebecca Kuga also talked with the kids about the communication skills and tools the HNT uses, in partnership with SWAT, in its efforts to get a barricaded suspect out of a bad situation without harm to anyone. She explained that the HNT is often called out first to make contact with the suspect and find a peaceful resolution to a tense and often dangerous situation. This year the officers, deputies and professional staff wore their respective uniforms to the SWAT/HNT presentation and once again the kids loved it! Campers got to see everyone “suited up” and they asked a lot of questions about the tools used to help do the job. We believe that, in addition to educating kids about the tools of the trade, it also helps the campers make the connection between who they see at Walker Creek Ranch and who they see on the streets, in their neighborhoods and schools. We want the rapport to continue beyond Camp Chance and making the connection between civilian clothes and the uniform helps accomplish that goal.
Firefighting, CHP Helicopter Landing and Search and Rescue
After lunch, the campers had a visit from the Marin County Firefighters assigned to Hicks Valley Fire Station, which is located between Petaluma and Point Reyes. This station provides protection for numerous ranches and is dispatched into Sonoma County routinely as a mutual aid source. They also help us prepare for the CHP helicopter landing by watering down the sports field prior to landing.
Unfortunately, this year the CHP helicopter was unable to land because of a call for service received
moments before their approach to Walker Creek Ranch. The helicopter was diverted to I-80 to assistwith a medi-vac; a real-time lesson in the value of this important Bay Area resource.
Life Skills Basics
Each year the San Rafael Police Youth Services Bureau team pays attention to the “hot topics” and issues facing kids at school and in life, then the team puts together an interactive presentation for the kids at Camp Chance. The children are broken up into smaller groups based on age and these workshops focus on important life and coping skills. We’re continuing to see a rise in the level of stress and generalized anxiety disorders in our juvenile clients, so this year the YSB interns again picked healthy coping skills as the topic. During the session, kids were encouraged to identify stressors they experience in their lives and learned healthy coping techniques for managing their thoughts and feelings in positive ways.
For many of the campers the day trip to Drake’s Beach at Pt. Reyes National Seashore is the first time they have experienced nature and open space unencumbered by buildings or freeways. Counselors and peace officers are quick to organize games of catch and football. If the surf is cooperating, kids play in the water under the watchful eye of staff. Kites are flown and at least one person is buried in the sand. The CIT’s help set up and serve a delicious BBQ lunch. Everyone works up a hearty appetite and it’s not unusual to see some napping on the beach before another round of games and the late afternoon ride back to Walker Creek Ranch.
Appreciation — Project Linus North Bay/Sonoma
Project Linus is a nation-wide organization and their mission is simple: to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need. They do this by giving children gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created for Project Linus by volunteer “blanketeers” and once again Camp Chance benefited from their kind donation of 70 blankets and afghans. Most kids don’t own fancy camping gear and some don’t even arrive with a sleeping bag. Walker Creek Ranch has enough surplus gear to help any child enjoy their stay in comfort but this year campers each were gifted with a beautiful handmade blanket that they took home with them Friday morning. A lovely memory of a great week in nature!
Thank You — Marin Rowing Association
Camp Chance also wants to take a moment to thank the Marin Rowing Association for donating proceeds of their 6th Annual Scrimmage Scramble Regatta to our program. The purpose of the Scramble event is to promote friendly competition with neighboring rowing clubs, have fun and raise money for a worthwhile charity. This year Camp Chance was the charity of choice and over $1,000 was raised. Thank you, Marin Rowing Association!
Save the Date — Winemaker Dinner 2017
Mark your calendars for Saturday, March 4, 2017 and the 7th annual winemaker dinner at San Rafael Joe’s. Hamel Family Wines of Sonoma is this year’s wine sponsor and we’ll be pouring some wonderful white and red wines to accompany a fantastic 5-course meal.
Would you be able to support this event with an item for our live or silent auction? We are on the lookout for vacation destinations, spa or dining certificates, one-of-a-kind activities and events, sports memorabilia, etc… To help, please contact Rebecca Kuga at 415-485-3025 or email@example.com.
Help Keep the Magic Alive!
Preparations for Camp Chance 2017 have already begun and we’ll be returning to Walker Creek Ranch. It costs $800 to send one child to Camp Chance for the 5-day program and the need for this program continues to grow. Please share what you can by sending your tax-deductible donation in the enclosed envelope made out to “San Rafael – Camp Chance.” Our tax-exempt number is 94-6000424.
Infused with enthusiasm and hope for the future, we look forward to working with you for the continued welfare of Marin’s children!