Camp Cherry Valley Reviews

1. The boat ride to and from Catalina (for most boys, their first trip to the island) during which they saw pods of jumping dolphins and whales from their spot on the upper deck.

2. The swim test where 3 of these inner city youths with minimal exposure to swimming, wisely begged off and another 2 were joined by lifeguards within seconds of hitting the water, while 2 tired and swam to the dock before completing the test. It was clear, we had our work cut out for us, but all 7 were swimming before the week was over!

3. Morning inspection was a blast. Who knew clever Counsellor Kyle could make cleaning and looking sharp so much fun? He insisted on a bonding ritual of some sort and our boys came up with the limbo and catching each other in fall-back exercises.

4. Rowing under our own steam 1.8 miles to Emerald Bay over the seas. Exhilarating!

5. Watching the Scouts have fun, some of whose parents don’t have cars, experience sailing for the first time.

6. Enjoying the company of 2 outstanding youth counselors, Eric and Alex, our troop friends for the week, who encouraged the boys, as did my two medical students who served as assistant scout masters, one of whom spent much of class and free time in the water helping with swim lessons.

7. Nordic looking water polo/swimming athlete and instructor, Riley, a Camp Cherry counselor and life guard, who offered to help our boys learn to swim. He did this tirelessly for 4 days. Watching our 220 pound Latino linebacker--equal parts pride and fear-- trust this blond youth enough to follow his instruction: “Jump deep under the water, grab a handful of sand and then swim to my flotation device. You can do it!” brought tears to my eyes, as the big teen eventually stroked gracefully through the water.

8. Adding up points and discovering that with all the accumulated beads, merit badges, service project, campfire skit, group hike and advancements we were on track to earn the honor troop ranking….1000 points, but only if one more of our boys, hardworking and respected 13 year old patrol leader Bryant, could pass the swim test for 15 points.

9. Bryant had missed a few swim lessons when he attended patrol leader meetings. In the last hour of free time at camp, it was up to him to earn the required honor troop points. He hesitated on the dock. After 30 minutes of encouraging and cajoling, I headed back to our campsite with most of our group, warning boys not to tease him for his understandable fear. Shortly later Bryant and those who had remained to watch, showed up at our campsite to tell me what happened. As Bryant hesitated on the dock for those long minutes while Riley assured him he could complete the 4 laps, other lifeguards joined him. Eventually 15 guards stood next to him on the dock, then jumped in to swim with him the required distance. Bryant handed me his designated swimmer tag, stating confidently, “One day I will be Troop 2131’s first Eagle Scout.”

Mr. Reyes and Mr. Zunigo, words are inadequate to thank you for the opportunity you provided these deserving youth to discover what they are made of, by arranging for their scholarships. I hope the pictures in your minds of their accomplishments bring you some of the joy I experienced this week as their scout master.