Big Bear camp for disabled children reopens

BIG BEAR, Calif. There were fears financial problems would force the camp to close. Funding for the camp was suspended in late June due to California's budget crisis.

Because state funding has been cut, each camper has had to raise the money to pay camp fees.

Camp officials are already collecting donations to keep the camp open in coming years.

Camp Oakes gives special needs children a chance to experience nature, and to socialize in ways they don't get at home. Because it is a fully accessible facility, campers can go canoeing, horseback riding and swimming. They can take part in traditional camp activities such as arts and crafts, campfire sing a longs and a talent show.

Many children have been going to the camp for years. Parents say it gives the youngsters something to look forward to as they go through surgeries and treatments all year.

"My child has been going to Easter Seals Camp for 14 years. It's the only way that these children can get away and feel like they are a part of the real world," said Riverside resident Cheryl Farris.

Longtime camper Mario Ramirez, who lives with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, has been attending Easter Seals Camp since he was 15. "Easter Seals Camp Oakes in the San Bernardino Mountains totally changed my life. Camp has made me more sympathetic to other people. It made me realize that there are reasons to be better," he said.

The camp staff is made up entirely of volunteers who travel from as far away as New York and Texas to attend. Many have been returning to volunteer each year for more than 20 years.

This year camp runs from Sunday, August 8, through Saturday, August 14.

Anyone who wants to donate to the camp is urged to visit visit .

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