LA Times

[LA Times] Reaching out to an 8-year-old

Trae Dietrich’s body wiggles with enthusiasm as he talks. Feet bounce, arms dance and shoulders shrug. Even his ears jiggle, and his eyes roll. Trae holds back nothing. He’s quick to divulge that “I can read 147 words a minute.” His many interests include reading, basketball, cooking and proposing solutions to disasters such as the recent oil spill.

Most of all, Trae loves to try new things.

At Pathfinder Ranch Camp last summer, Trae’s favorite activity was horseback riding. Growing up in the Orange County community of Tustin with his mom and siblings, horseback riding wasn’t an option. Trae still managed to stay active every day after school at the Boys and Girls Club. The Club advocates safe, supportive communities and encourages children to reach their full potential. For Trae at this point in his 8-year-old life, that means running around and interacting with peers in games like soccer and “capture the flag.” Watching Trae prance around the basketball court, it’s difficult to imagine that he was born with a serious deformity known as club feet. After undergoing major corrective surgery, Trae was fitted with foot casts for two years before facing the challenge of learning to walk.

Trae recovered so well that his previous disability is barely noticeable. Gary Oustad, director of operations at the Tustin Boys and Girls Club, says he didn’t even know about the deformity. “Ever since he’s been here he’s run around like a gazelle,” Oustad says. “He’s just an adorable kid.”

Every year, the club’s 7-to-14 year-olds have the chance to attend summer camp at Pathfinder Ranch, a program run specifically for children who attend California and Nevada Boys and Girls Clubs. Located in the San Jacinto Mountains close to Idyllwild, the 74-acre camp offers a range of typical camp activities. Trae passed on the rock climbing last summer, thinking it would be too daunting. This summer, he may be ready to give it a try.

On a recent Saturday morning at the Boys and Girls Club, Trae itches for something to do. Across the room, a speaker from the Belief in Sobriety Foundation engages a group of kids in an animated discussion about addiction. Trae’s curiosity is aroused and he slides out of his seat and joins the group. Camp won’t start for a few weeks, and in the meantime, maybe he can learn something new.

With $1.6 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign approximately 6,500 children will go to camp in Southern California this summer.

The Summer Camp Campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation fund, which matches all donations at 50 cents on the dollar.

Donations are tax-deductible as permitted by law. Addresses will not be released or published. Mail donations using the attached form (do not send cash), donate by phone at (800) 518-3975 or donate online now atlatimes.com/donate.

daina.solomon@latimes.com

Read on latimes.com at http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jun/22/entertainment/la-et-camp-20100622

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