Good Times This Summer!
This summer marked our 18th year and with 122 campers it was also our largest on record! Your continued support allows 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 122 strong, with 13 alumni counselors-in-training (CIT’s) and 15 seasoned camp counselors for the week of July 10 – 14, 2017.
Camp Chance program alum and CIT, David, “DJ” Bosshard, credits Camp Chance with changing his life path. DJ freely shares that he had a rough start as a child and felt adrift. He also viewed law enforcement as neutral, at best. All that changed for him at 11 years of age when DJ attended Camp Chance for the first time, learned about the work of First Responders and enjoyed positive interactions with police officers and deputies. DJ was so interested that he applied to Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Explorer program. The Explorer Post is a group of young men and women between the ages of 14 and 21 who are interested in exploring a career in law enforcement. Explorers get a combination of classroom training and hands-on experience — teaching them about the rigorous and challenging field of law enforcement. DJ has been an Explorer for the last two years and this summer brought his uniform to wear on Wednesday with all the officers and professional staff during the HNT/SWAT demonstration. As the program inspired DJ, so too does he have the ability to inspire the younger campers. We’re very happy to be able to stay connected with our alumni as they get older and offer them the means by which to find a sense of purpose.|
Another program alum is Lilyette Gallegos (pink dress in photo) who first attended Camp Chance ten years ago as an 11-year old from Marin City. Lilyette is the first one to tell you that, as a child, she was painfully shy and lacking in focus. While she was never in serious trouble, she skirted around the edges of the law. Lilyette stayed connected with Camp Chance and returned as a CIT for multiple years. This year we hired her as a counselor, where she did a fantastic job and never held back on her exuberance for the program. During closing circle on Thursday night, Lilyette shared to the assembled group how this program, plus the support of law enforcement staff, helped her find her voice and a passion in life. Lilyette’s passion is in the culinary arts and she is currently working as a chef at a yacht club in the Bay Area with hopes of attending a culinary school.
Building Lasting Trust
There was a change in the Camp Chance law enforcement roster when Deputy Sheriff Domenick Yazzolino was promoted to sergeant and Deputy Sheriff Josie Sanguinetti was moved into the role of School Resource Officer. Josie had been involved in Camp Chance regularly in years past but until recently her job duties prevented her from participating in the program for more than a day visit. Now, as the SRO, Josie was able to join us for the entire week and truly enjoyed hanging out with the kids and participating in all the wonderful activities. An added bonus for us is that Sgt. Yazzolino is so supportive of Camp Chance that he took a week of vacation to come and play this summer at Walker Creek Ranch. Our list of involved and committed law enforcement staff keeps growing and growing…just like the number of campers who attend each summer!
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 and Sergeant Scott Eberle, members of the SRPD SWAT Team, plus members of the Marin County Sheriff’s Office Special Response Team (SRT) provided kids with the ever popular SWAT presentation on Wednesday morning. These teams 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. Eberle 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. In addition, Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT) member and psychotherapist Rebecca Kuga 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.
Again this year the officers, deputies and professional staff wore their respective uniforms to the SWAT/HNT presentation and the kids really like 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. The helicopter had perfect conditions for a landing, which always thrills the crowd.
Life Skills Basics
Each year the San Rafael Police Youth Services Bureau team pays attention to the hot topics facing kids at school and in life, and 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. This year we saw a big spike in anxiety and anger in children so the YSB interns put together a great presentation on anger management skills. 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.
Donor Spotlight — Rafael Evening Rotary
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 3, 2018 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help Keep the Magic Alive!
Preparations for Camp Chance 2018 have already begun and we’ll be returning to Walker Creek Ranch. It costs $700 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 “City of 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!