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Summer Camps, Schools & Activities

CYO Camp:
A place where
a kid can be a kid

24 teams participate
in CYO Girls East

CYO basketball
features exciting
final games

Madeleine pupils
build computers in
school day project

placeholder March 28, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA
Summer Camps, Schools & Activities

Among the activities at the camp are canoeing, swimming, archery, sports and arts and crafts.
Courtesy photos

CYO Camp: A place where a kid can be a kid

Rick Garcia, CYO Camp director.

Parents looking for a summer camp experience they had — or wished for — would do well to look toward Occidental, 60 miles north of San Francisco, where CYO Camp is in its seventh decade of offering summer adventure to kids from age 8 to 17.

On 216 acres of coastal redwoods, living in villages, divided into age groups, campers experience summer activities — swimming, archery, canoeing, hiking, campfires and talent shows — in a program designed to help them grow.

"Our camp is rooted in building community, improving communication skills, group cooperation and developing 21st-century skills," said Rick Garcia, who is preparing for his first full season as director of CYO Camp, which is a ministry of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

"We share the values of the organization here at camp as well," he said. "Our program is rooted in Catholic social teaching."

CYO Summer Camp
P.O. Box 188
2136 Bohemian Highway
Occidental, CA 95465
The attraction to those values are not limited to those who share the Catholic faith, he said, but "resonate with all families."

Leadership, camaraderie, grit and problem-solving are nurtured at camp.

"We believe we're planning seeds for kids to be successful in higher education and the workforce," Garcia said.

Here's what campers do not pack: cell phones, games and other electronic devices.

"We're really unplugged here at camp," Garcia said. There's "not a lot of bells and whistles here," he said, but the focus is firmly on the whole person.

The camp, he said, "is heavily invested in the training and selection of staff," chosen with an eye in selecting "the very best role models who can deliver our program." More than 50 percent of the staff members are former campers.

Among the things the campers won't find: vending machines.

"Of course, there's dessert," Garcia said. "We're camp."

Campers will find food that's nutritious and inviting, designed to meet the needs of various eating styles.

"Our food service manager, Jon Schultz, is pretty exceptional," said Garcia, who has visited more than 100 camps in his career.

"Jon takes great pride in his work," Garcia said. "We get great reviews."

"There's an exceptional salad bar at breakfast and lunch," he said, offering more than two dozen options. Local fresh produce is delivered to camp twice a week, and meals are made from scratch, Garcia said.

Garcia is well acquainted with CYO Camp. Before becoming director last Aug. 1, he served as associate director from 2007 to 2012. Before his return, he worked with the American Camp Association, the organization that accredits camps nationwide. CYO Camp is accredited by the American Camp Association.

Growing up in a single-parent home with two younger siblings in Los Angeles, Garcia's only camping opportunity was sixth-grade science camp.

"I never had an opportunity to go to overnight camp in the summer," he recalled. But that time at science camp "planted the seed." He became a camp counselor after his freshman year of collge, and after graduation from college began working in camps.

Among them was Circle V Ranch Camp, a Society of St. Vincent de Paul camp in Santa Barbara.

"I have been pretty blessed to work in beautiful places," he said of his career.

In Occidental, CYO Camp offers six one-week sessions for campers, as well as a Counselor in Training option for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Financial assistance is available. "It's very much at the core of Catholic Charities' mission and what we do," he said. Nearly 50 percent of the campers receive some subsidy, he said. Most families who are eligible for free or reduced fee lunches, for example, would qualify for some financial assistance.

Among the questions parents might ask about any summer camp, Garcia suggests: "Is my child going to be safe? Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association?"

Families are welcome to call CYO Camp at 707-874-0240 to arrange a tour.

"I think that camp is an incredible gift they can give their kid," Garcia said. "Kids are so busy," he said, pointing to daily schedules packed with school and extracurricular activities. Camp, he said, "gives them the gift of being just kids for a week."

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