CampCOURAGEThree Days in Summer Create Lifelong Memories

Boys and girls from YALs across the county had the opportunity to participate in the three-day Camp COURAGE (Community Opposition and United Resistance Against Gang Evils) program this summer. Girls’ camps were held July 15 to 17 and July 30 to August 1, while boys’ camps were July 6 to 8 and July 15 to 17.

camp-courage-02With ropes challenge courses, zip lines, climbing, arts and crafts, team building, hiking, campfires, swimming, archery, cooking and mentoring, the camps are a fun way for youth to learn new skills and build confidence in their own abilities while bonding with LASD deputies and mentors.

Started over 20 years ago at Industry YAL, Camp COURAGE has grown from one coed camp per year to dedicated boys’ and girls’ camps held several times per year and serving as many as 240 children from throughout L.A. County. It is run by “Camp Commander” Sergeant Tom Wilson — a 30-year LASD veteran who manages the Industry YAL and also holds the YAL’s board position of secretary — and a small army of LASD reserve deputies, Explorers and volunteers.

camp-courage-01“Many members of the Industry Sheriff’s Station community and beyond have taken the time to become trained in camp operations,” says Wilson. “It takes as many as 12 volunteers just to operate the ropes courses. They all gladly give of their free time to assist us with this program.”

Ropes instructor Deputy Phil Cook, archery instructor and overall camp manager Deputy Scott Adamson, and camp cook Ken Layman, who prepares delicious food for as many as 80 people per meal, are also vital to camp operations.

Early camps were held in the Mammoth and San Bernardino Mountains before the current, permanent location in Industry’s Tonner Canyon became available. “YAL deputies and the City of Industry worked tirelessly to create a camp that fulfills all the needs of our operations and is close enough to be able to hold more events and provide the opportunity to more youth,” says Wilson.

camp-courage-03Rave reviews from camp participants fuel Wilson’s commitment to the program. “They talk about how this was the best time they ever had,” he says. He feels the program has succeeded when children “talk about how great it was to have a full meal, which breaks my heart. When years later they will stop you on the street and talk about the bear scare or the zip line. When they connect with the deputies and make contact with them after the event is over to ask for advice, or help, or to just stay in touch. How they wished it was longer and didn’t have to end.”

Key players in creating this experience include the City of Industry, which has provided ongoing support. “To say that they go above and beyond the call doesn’t give them justice,” says Wilson. Additionally, “Captain Timothy Murakami has always supported us and always manages to spend time with the kids at the camp, and the Industry YAL board has worked tirelessly to help facilitate all of the programs the Industry Youth Activities League has to offer.”