Dear Woodseys, Alumni, & Supporters,

Thank you for your continued support of UCLA UniCamp. Without your help, this program would not be where it is today. This time last year, we sent out a questionnaire asking for feedback. We had just learned that 20% of our annual support was being redirected to other causes. It was a good time for UniCamp to question how we were addressing our mission. The questionnaire sought feedback on the direction we should take in light of a reduction in foundation support. Some suggested we shrink until we could find other funding sources, others suggested hiring more people to raise funds, but an overwhelming majority of people suggested we fight. Fight, be scrappy, and do whatever was needed to keep UCLA UniCamp as one of the best camps in Los Angeles.

Facing what seemed like an impossible hurdle, not only did we stand up to the challenge; we embraced it whole heartedly and began to see an upside to everything. This was an opportunity to push UniCamp further than it has ever been. It gave us creative license to diversify our contributed support efforts but more importantly, it allowed us to create additional, and/or alter existing program offerings, as long as we didn’t abandon the traditional “UCLA UniCamp” experience. A famous philosopher and former Yankee catcher is quoted as saying:

“If you come to a fork in the road, take it” – Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra

Here are some examples of how we’ve “taken the fork in the road”:

  • AcademiCamp – In collaboration with UCLA Community School. AcademiCamp is a literacy Intervention program. We host 3 weeks of Summer Day Camp/Summer School that culminates with a week of the Classic UniCamp program, offering both an educational and recreational experience.
  • C.L.I.M.B. – (Core Lessons in Mind and Body) – An Older Camper Program that teaches campers how to safely belay other campers while they climb.
  • O.W.L.S. (Outdoor Wilderness Learning Seminars) – In collaboration with the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Graduate school of Education. OWLS is a weeklong UniCamp camping experience filled with Environmental Education programs that have been created for us by the students of UCLA Environment Class 188A, the first official joint UCLA/ UCLA UniCamp class offered.
  • SAIL’s “STEM to Stern” – Science, Technology, Engineering & Math through sailing. – In collaboration with UCLA Community School, this program engages our campers in the classroom and on the water. Advisors mentors older campers as they cover US Sailing’s REACH curriculum and learn to serve as a skipper and first-mate when they take “Classic” UniCamp campers out for sailing excursions over the summer.

All of these programs have attracted new, designated funding, and helped us to continue to support the “studenteers” efforts, and provide “tools” for volunteers to help campers see their futures in a positive manner.

Before I let you go, I wanted to remind you that UniCamp is a student activity that seeks to do real good in our communities. Student Volunteers don’t get school credit, they don’t get paid and rarely do they receive recognition for what they do. They do it, simply, to make a difference. Due to their kindness, UniCamp continues to grow every year, but the “studenteers” alone, can’t keep pace with the growing need for resources. Even though today’s “studenteers” raise more money than ever before, it isn’t quite enough. Their efforts make up 30% (almost $300,000 in 2013) of the funds necessary. The additional 70% is gathered through efforts by the Board, Staff, Alumni, corporations, and foundations. When you support UCLA UniCamp you are not just supporting the 1,300 campers we had  in 2013, you are also supporting the 450 UCLA student volunteers in 2013 and the thousands of future UCLA students who will pour their hearts and souls into making someone else’s life a little bit better. I’ve included a story from a 1st year volunteer that I touched my heart:

“It was my first time volunteering for UniCamp. What first seemed to be another random decision, turned out to be the most rewarding experience of the summer. To flash backwards, I was a middle village counselor. One of my campers stood out to me. He was quiet, and a little distant. His name was Galaxy. Galaxy was from Korea and had only been in the states for three months. He struggled to speak full sentences. When it was time for rotations, he insisted that he was not worthy of participating because no one could understand him.

Galaxy made progress throughout the week but drama rotation changed everything.  He was the last one to participate and hoped to go unnoticed. My co and I decided to have him perform with us. He shook his head nervously and was unsure of himself. Soon enough, Galaxy was playing the role of a foreign creature from Albania. It was this moment when Galaxy’s smile radiated throughout camp. The other kids loved his performance and he finally felt like he belonged to the group.

What impressed me most was his respect towards everyone. He would listen to everyone, word for word and try to make sense of everything. What I value the most from our time together was the spontaneous small talk we shared. He described the hardships of Korea along with some entertaining stories and stereotypes which we both found completely amusing. I shared with him that I was once an immigrant and started off quiet and distant as well.

When it was time to go home, Galaxy hugged me tightly and made sure we snapped a picture before leaving.  I looked around and saw another camper who had admitted to being bullied and not having friends at home say his goodbyes in tears to his fellow unit members. They all formed a bond, a created a new family. Today, Galaxy is getting tutored by our very own adopted specialist, K.O., and is continuing to grow to be the great kid he has always been. In one of my recent conversations with Galaxy, he asked me to repeat our mission statement:

“Imagine the world you’d like to see. Dream of the person you want to be. Pave the path you want to take. To shape the reality you want to make. Believe in the power inside of you. Session 4, let’s make our dreams come true!”

He told me how much he misses camp and can’t wait to return. Today, I see Galaxy being more of himself and growing up to shine light among those who cross paths with him, thank you Galaxy. – Isauro “Mr. Ranger” Meza

Wouldn’t you like to help make a similar experience possible for a UCLA student volunteer next year? Yogi Berra also said: “…a nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore” … and he’s right. When you think about contributing to UniCamp this year, think about giving a little bit extra. Remember that your contribution increases exponentially as it’s passed from you, to the “studenteers” and onto the campers.


Wally “Pops” Wirick