Camp counselors “Curly” and “Horcháta” said once the kids at Camp River Glen figured out how to make Woodsey Bling, special camp necklaces, they wouldn’t stop.
About 30 children from ages 7 to 10 attended Bear Necessities this summer, a camping program put on by UCLA Recreation and UCLA UniCamp, a service organization that sends children from urban communities to outdoor summer camps. Activities included games, songs, night hikes and camp jewelry-making.
Tracie Lockwood, associate director of UCLA Recreation, said adventure programming, or nature-related programming, has been popular among campers in past years. Bear Necessities expanded these elements into a three-day sleepaway camping program held at UniCamp’s Camp River Glen in Angelus Oaks, California.
Young campers visited the woods for the first time, climbed obstacle courses, and made Woodsey Bling at Camp River Glen. Woodsey refers to anything that coincides with the mission or atmosphere of UniCamp.
Alyx Navarro, the UniCamp operations manager and a graduate student at the University of Southern California, said UniCamp believes every child can benefit from outdoor experiences.
“A lot of the students we were serving have never been up to the woods, typically their camps have been at Sunset Rec,” Navarro said. “A lot of the kids come from urban communities. Them coming up (to Camp River Glen) was very eye-opening.”
Carlos Maralit, a counselor for the program who graduated from UCLA in 2017, said he thinks the program is a great experience for campers because they get to try new outdoor activities. He said he was amazed to see the campers cheer each other on while they overcame their fears and climbed the camp’s alpine tower.
Diana “Horcháta” Marin, another counselor for the program who graduated from UCLA in 2017, said her favorite memory from the camp was making camp necklaces with the kids.
“They made me laugh a lot,” Marin said. “I remember at the end of their time, one of the boys gave one of the girls Woodsey Bling before they left. So sweet.”
Lockwood added summer programs use a tiered payment system and offer robust scholarships to ensure the camps serve as many community members as possible, especially students who need child care to work on their degrees in the summer.
“Summer is a really critical link (for students with dependents) to get in courses they need, but that only works if they have child care,” Lockwood said.
Navarro said she hopes the Bear Necessities program will continue to serve the UCLA community and underserved children in the future.
“(We hope to) make it a tradition to have a Bear Necessities and UCLA UniCamp partnership every year,” Navarro said.