By Dick Rogers
July 16, 2016 (San Diego's East County) - This year's camping experience starts on July 24th with the Traditional Barbeque hosted by the El Cajon Valley Host Lions club.
Lions Camp Jack was the dream of its founder, PDG Jack Wyatt, a member of the San Diego Host Lion’s Club.
As a foster child himself, Jack’s dream was to someday provide a summer, outdoor experience for the at-risk youth in the area. The goal was to provide a safe, fun filled one week camp away from their regular surroundings and build and perpetuate a friendly relationship with law enforcement, plus reinforce moral and ethical values in addition to community respossibilty.
Jack’s dream materialized into a nineteen year successful camp program and will continue on with all the Volunteer Lions from District 4L6 maintaining his legacy.
The camp facilities, located 45 miles east of San Diego in Descanso, is known as “Camp Oliver,” a church camp approved by the State of California.
The camp week, which is Sunday through Friday, is divided into two week increments with 72 children in each week. The nine and 10-year-old boys and girls attend the first week while the 11 and 12-year-olds have the second week.
Their living quarters consist of cabins which hold ten children and 2 counselors with individual bunk beds complete with showers and bathrooms. The children are supervised and under the control of the two specially trained and qualified 17 to 21-year-old counselors 24 hours a day.
Children selected for Camp Jack must fall into a somewhat undefined category of “At Risk” which includes foster and family groups, Boys and Girls Clubs and school counselors who are asked to make referrals, plus contact with law enforcement and the Probation Department. Campers are also selected if they live in high crime area, are eligible for the free school lunch program and If either of the parents are incarcerated.
Kids with an inappropriate criminal background are not accepted.
When they arrive on Sunday afternoon from the Elks club In El Cajon, they are greeted by their counselors and shown to their living quarters. Bus transportation is provided by the Lions. Then they attend a campfire meeting where they are introduced to a “all you can eat” barbeque cooked and provided by the Lions. The rest of day consists of a camp tour, introductions and learning the camp rules and songs.
Activities for the week include three nutritional meals a day, daily nature hikes, swimming pool time with lessons, archery, arts and crafts, sleeping under the stars one night, 2 days of fishing at nearby Lake Cuyamaca and nature lecture programs.
Also included is a sing-along cabin to cabin contest and a last night talent contest among the kids.
On their last day we give the kids a questionnaire “what did you like the most about camp?" to fill out and return. In my 17 years with Camp Jack it always seems to be the same three answers: 1. Making new friends, 2. Fishing and 3. swimming. Activities that are seldom available to them at home.
Our kids may be labeled “At Risk,” but to us, they are sweetest, most polite, well behaved and appreciative children. We also give each child one more thing to take home with them (a memory to last a life time).
Lion Chairman David Huntamer firstname.lastname@example.org