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State budget threatens special-needs camp

July 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
After nearly four decades, a special-needs summer camp is in danger of closing its doors. The camp specializes in giving the disabled the chance for a fun and active summer. But the state budget crisis has slashed its state funding. A little help can keep the camp afloat.Every week this summer, Camp Oakes near Big Bear Lake will be packed. Every week perhaps, except one. The first week of August is usually reserved for Easter Seals Camp, a camp especially for the disabled. But it might be canceled this year because of the state's budget crisis.

"My first reaction was like, I was awe-struck; my heart just dropped," said camper Mario Ramirez.

Ramirez had a yard sale Wednesday to help raise money to go to camp. The camp itself has been around for 36 years. Ramirez has been going since he was 15. He says he doesn't know where he'd be without Easter Seals Camp.

"This camp totally changed my life. It made me more sympathetic to other people. It made me realize that there are reasons to be better," said Ramirez.

Because of the state's budget crisis, the camp won't be getting $52,000 in state funding. And without that, camp will be canceled, one of the many ways the state will help balance its budget. But volunteer Doug Graham says that would be a shame because of what the camp does.

"People think disabled people can't do anything," said Graham. "Not true, they can do anything. And that's what we do strive here at camp, that you can do anything you want to do, let's do it."

"It's done so much good for me, and I would like that to be shared with other people," said Ramirez. "And if it is closed, you know that would be a great detriment."

So the camp's future is out of the state's hands for now. The only question remaining is, will the private sector come to the rescue, or will this 36-year tradition be left dead in the water?

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