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Scouting offers troubled boys a healthier alternative

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    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    Longtime Charlotte community leaders Sally and Russell Robinson are honorary chairs for the Observer Summer Camp Fund. “It would be our great hope that every child who wanted to go to camp could go,” says Sally.

More Information

  • Donate to the Summer Camp Fund
  • Summer Camp Fund donors

    The fund raised $9,972 this week. Recent donors include:

    Betty W. Woerner$100Ken & Jeanne Dowd$150
    Leaning Teepees & Saponi Braves$87Anonymous$500
    Mrs. Jenny Teague$100Anonymous$100
    Raymond & Katherine Bianchi$100Dawn & Terrance Bolon$75
    Louis & Lucy Stephens$100Ray & Mary Boardman$500
    Edna Hilton$10Suzanne L. Anderson-Smith$100
    Martha & Craig Wardlaw$1,000Mr. & Mrs. Milton Smith$25
    Lila L. Brown$50D. D. Hodges$100
    Elizabeth Brand$200Emma G. Frye$100
    Janice Barker$25Southeastern Architectural Systems$100
    J. David & Donna Whitener$100Anonymous$100
    Gilbert & Ann Lorenz$100Juanita Efird$100
    Sara Horn$100Anonymous$75
    Marcie Rollins$10Charlotte NC Tours LLC$50
    Kristen & Robert Bruton$100Mark Tefakis$100
    SouthPark Lions Club$50Anonymous$100
    David & Donna Whitener$25James Reichard$500
    Janet Haack$250James Pugh$100
    Anonymous$100Michael Bona$100
    Douglas & Jacqueline Benedict$100Hugh Lovejoy$250
    F. J. Armstead$50Christopher Daly$200
    Carolyn B. Faison$250C. W. Stacks$50
    Anonymous$100In memory of Stewart Baucom$200
    Anonymous$50Jane Hunter$100
    Richard & Mary Sherman$50James Alderman$50
    Anonymous$100Susanne Frisco$100
    Julia Slaydon$100In honor of Pete Sowell$100
    Catherine El-Khouri$50Christa Johnson$300
    Frances P. Martin$300Robert Gillie$25
    Henry & Renee Justice$50Christine Fritts$25
    Anonymous$50Adam Fetner$50
    Anonymous$30Anonymous$25
    Larry & Catherine Good$200Abigail Carson$50
    Anonymous$10Bill & Lisa Szymczyk$1,000
    In memory of Barbara Burmeister$25Margaret & Perry Efird$100
    Gerry Rumierz & Kathleen O’Connell$250

    The fund has raised $72,891 so far in this campaign.


  • Help the Summer Camp Fund

    Longtime Charlotte community leaders Sally and Russell Robinson are honorary chairs for the Observer Summer Camp Fund. “It would be our great hope that every child who wanted to go to camp could go,” says Sally. You can help by donating online at www.charlotteobserver.com/summercampfund. Or send donations to The Summer Camp Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte, NC 28237-7269. Each Sunday during the drive, the Observer will list contributors in the Local section. If you wish to make an anonymous donation, indicate it on the “for” line of your check. If you donate via PayPal and wish to be anonymous, note your preference in the special instructions field. To donate in honor or in memory of someone, please also use the “for” line or special instructions field. Donations are tax-deductible and are processed through Observer Charities, a 501(c)(3).

    If you have questions about your donation, call 704-358-5520.



Isaac Sandoval was 14 and on the brink of trouble in his eastside neighborhood when a friend suggested he check out the Boy Scouts Scouting Through Soccer Program.

Within months of joining, he was forming healthy friendships with other boys and adults in the program, learning leadership and life skills that he says opened his eyes to a bigger, brighter world.

Attending Camp Grimes, the summer camp run by the Mecklenburg County Council of Boy Scouts in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, made his commitment to living a positive, healthy life even stronger.

“It distracted me from stuff that I was doing,” he says.

Now 22, Sandoval hasn’t missed a single summer at Camp Grimes, returning as a volunteer after aging out of Boy Scouts at 18 and graduating from Garinger High School. He is an employee of the Mecklenburg County Council of the Boy Scouts, helping administer programs and shepherding Scouts and troop leaders through the program.

Sandoval runs his own Scouting Through Soccer troop now. He’s hoping that about half of his 10-member troop will go to Camp Grimes with him this summer.

“The experience is overwhelming,” he says. “I fell in love with it.”

The camp, open to Scouts between the ages of 101/2 and 18, costs $260 for a one-week session. To give boys from low-income families a chance to attend, the program makes scholarships available, through donations from the Charlotte Observer Summer Camp Fund and other area groups.

This summer, 57 Scouts will attend Camp Grimes through the Observer’s Summer Camp Fund.

Thanks to the generosity of readers, as well as matching grants and corporate donations, more than 260 kids will attend 14 camps this summer through the Summer Camp Fund. This is the fund’s sixth year.

Because many boys in the Scouting Through Soccer program have never gone away to camp before, convincing the parents is sometimes a tricky task, program organizers say.

But once there, the boys are able to earn scores of merit badges in areas such as swimming and riflery, welding and water-skiing.

Mornings are spent in structured classes and activities, earning badges and working on skills. In the afternoons, there’s free time to swim in the lake and play sports. Scouts sleep on cots in tents or cabins.

Scout leaders who run the program say all boys benefit from scouting, but those who may be at risk for getting into trouble especially do. The Scouting Through Soccer program is designed to make scouting approachable for Latino and other minority youths.

In many Latin American countries, scouting is reserved for financially well-off families, says Hector Abreu, director of the Scouting Through Soccer Program at the Mecklenburg County Council of the Boy Scouts.

Camp Grimes is a big draw for some boys because it gives them a chance to earn multiple merit badges in a one-week span.

“Boys like to prove themselves by accomplishing tasks. So while being able to start a fire in their neighborhood might not be a necessary skill, to be able to do it boosts self-confidence,” says Justin Lewter, director of Exploring & Special Initiatives for the Mecklenburg County Council of the Boy Scouts.

“It boosts your self-esteem to know that you can learn to do things, so you approach the next challenge more courageous and willing to try,” he said.

Kids who attend camp “have a greater sense of camaraderie” with their troop-mates, Lewter says. “Whereas they knew each other as teammates, they now know each other as bunkmates.”

Michael Palma, 15, is about to embark on his fifth summer at Camp Grimes.

He’s excited about showing camp newcomers the ropes and sharing his passion for the place.

“You try new stuff, and you learn about the wild, how to protect wildlife, and how to take care of yourself,” says Palma, an incoming ninth-grader at Marie G. Davis Learning Language Academy.

His mom, Lynn Palma, volunteers with the Boy Scouts by helping get the word out about Scouting Through Soccer in the local Latino community.

“Camp Grimes gives kids the opportunity to get away from the electronic world,” Lynn Palma says. “They get that outdoor experience that in most places of the city of Charlotte, you don’t get.”

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