Salesian Boys & Girls Club Ready for Summer Campers

Nonprofit steps up to give kids an enriching and memorable summer.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

When Daisy Cuellar was a Salesian Boys and Girls Club member, there was no summer camp. Now, the recent Wellesley College graduate and City Terrace resident is working behind the scenes to help make sure that this year summer camp is available to club members.

Cuellar writes grant proposals for the Boyle Heights area-based Salesian Boys and Girls Clubs, where approximately 98 percent of the club’s members are Latino and over 35 percent are low-income or living in poverty, according to the club’s website.

The club offers valuable educational and life skills to students in need of help and guidance, and an incentive to stay out of trouble.

Cuellar says she has fond memories of submerging herself in the club’s leadership program.

She told EGP that when she was selected to receive the Boys and Girls Club “Youth of the Year” award, the Salesian staff went out of their way to drive her mother to the award ceremony in Sacramento.

My involvement “led me to make positive decisions,” and after four years away, “they’ve welcomed me back with open arms,” Cuellar told EGP. Today she is working to make sure that young people from the East Los Angeles community have access to those same positive life experiences.

According to Brother Tom Mass, the club’s executive director, they use to run a summer day camp program out of the Wabash location, but it’s been closed for years. They are now working to reestablish the program at that location, one of three branches in the Boyle Heights area.

The nonprofit Salesian Boys and Girls Club offers the national Boys and Girls Club core programs in addition to a spiritual component that is in accordance with the mission of Don Bosco to help the neediest children, Mass said.

While the after-school program has for the most part focused on academics, they have lately been trying to expand their horizons and be more creative in order to keep the children’s interest.

For example, the club recently offered a pet training program to its members. It also offers lifeguard training as well as an arts and crafts program that will culminate with a trip this summer to the Getty Museum, Mass said.

C.P.A. Jay Conner is in charge of resource development and says the club has brought in personal trainers to give the boys and girls some healthy life style tips.
This summer they are bringing in artists to teach visual, creative and performing arts skills to club members. They have also started a bicycle club and are working on establishing a community garden.

“We are making a robust effort to get more kids in the summer program …we could end up with twice as many [as prepared for], but we’ll be happy to deal with that crisis when it comes,” Conner said.

Next Wednesday, June 20, the Salesian Boys and Girls Club will take club members on their first field trip of the summer. They will go see a movie at a local movie theater then take a “learning tour” around the facility, Cuellar said. The theater field trips are made possible through a 2012 Summer Movie Express grant through the Regal Entertainment Group, Cuellar explained.

Summer campers will also take field trips to Dockweiler Beach on July 13, and Castaic Lake on July 20.

Summer activities at the club sites includes swimming, game room, arts & crafts, educational games, dance, and sports. But members can also expect an exciting summer camp experience filled with group cheers and a talent show, the organizers said.

The Salesian Boys and Girls Summer Day Camp (Wabash location) is open to youth, ages 6 to 12; children of all religions and background are welcome. A healthy lunch will be provided daily.

The program runs June 25 to Aug. 3, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The cost is $25 per week, $10-$15 for additional siblings. Club membership is $5 and includes the regular club hours from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. No child will be turned away for inability to pay, according to the nonprofit organization.

For more information, call (323) 263-7519, or pick up an application at 3218 Wabash Ave.

The Salesian Boys and Girls Club branch near Soto Street in Boyle Heights will also be holding a Summer Day Camp, for more information call (323) 980-8551, or pick up an application at the club located at 2228 E. 4th Street.

The Salesian Boys and Girls Clubs are supported through grants, foundation funding and individual donors. The Wabash location was once an old Jewish Menorah Center in the 1930s but it was extensively remodeled became the Salesian Boys and Girls Club in 1966, according to the club’s website. For more information about Salesian Boys and Club programs, go online to http://www.salesianclubs-la.org/contacts.html.

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June 14, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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