Local Thousand Oaks Moms Create Service-Learning Summer Camp That is Fun-Filled and Community Inspired

Thousand Oaks locals, Meredith Madnick Cornelius and Anne Byer Marquart decided to create a summer camp focused on service-learning after they wanted to send their own children to one and realized there were none available for younger children.

From that realization, Camp Helping Hands™ (CHH) was born. CHH is a co-ed summer day camp for kids ages six to 13 with service-learning as its core theme.  Service-learning emphasizes both service and learning and requires participants to use their knowledge and skills to address real-life needs in their own communities.  

At Camp Helping Hands, campers will do just this by following the four phases of the service-learning process: investigation, planning, taking action, and reflection. When campers are led through this collaborative process, they share and invest their ideas and skills and feel truly committed to the project and to making a difference. Local organizations from the community will join as service partners, and local college students will lead the groups as CHH counselors.  

The theme for 2011 is “Living: Our Place in the World,” and the three-week session will be hosted at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.  During week one, CHH campers will work with Waste Management to see firsthand how a landfill can be transformed into a pollinator garden. After a brief facility tour, which includes an up-close visit with Avian Entertainment falconers and their birds of prey, campers will assist where needed to help maintain the Pollinator Garden, a one-of-a-kind living testament for conservation and sustainability. In addition to the work they do at Waste Management, CHH campers will work together at CLU to create a sculpture to help beautify the garden. The giant sculpture will be made entirely from recyclables and will remain on permanent display in the Pollinator Garden.   

During week two, campers will work to help fight hunger with CHH partners Community Roots Garden and Join the Farm. Working with the farm educators and local farmers, campers will not only learn the importance of healthy eating and how to maintain lifelong healthy eating habits, but they will also gain an appreciation and respect for our farmers and discover how our farmers are often unable to provide these essential nutrients for their own families due to high costs or lack of accessible green space to garden. Campers will harvest crops, ferment vegetables, gather fresh eggs, work compost piles, and much more.

The three-week program concludes with a focus on wildlife conservation and domestic animal rescue. Campers will tour the Agoura Animal Shelter and California Wildlife Center in Malibu where they will meet with zoologists, veterinarians, and creatures of all varieties to learn about the ways we can help protect and save our Earth’s animals. At CHH, campers will make tug toys and catnip satchels from used clothes for dogs and cats at the shelter, and for native baby bird and mammal species receiving medical care at the Wildlife Center, they will make rice pillows. This week CHH will host a special visitor at CLU - The Wildlife Learning Center. This presentation will focus on local endangered animals and will give campers the opportunity to see (and touch) animal species that live in their very own community.

Each week, CHH campers will also participate in swimming, sports activities, theme-related games, arts and crafts, songs and activities. The camp runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday with options for extended care. Camp begins July 18 and ends Aug. 9. Cost for the three-week package is $725. Additional camper discounts do apply. Healthy snacks will be provided daily by CHH community partner Join the Farm.

About Camp Helping Hands

The Camp Helping Hands project began when co-founder Cornelius realized her upper-middle class six-year-old daughter was spoiled. Understanding that her daughter was incapable of knowing what life is like when you don’t always have what you need, she decided it was time for her to learn compassion and empathy by volunteering her time to help others not as fortunate as her. After researching service areas of interest on the Internet, they found a definite lack of programs accepting young children as volunteers.

Cornelius saw this need as an opportunity and thought a summer camp would fit the bill nicely. She knew this project was too big to tackle alone, so longtime friend Anne Marquart, who shares similar concerns and values, was asked to join the team as partner and co-founder.

For more information about Camp Helping Hands, visit www.camphelpinghands.com or call 805-244-5071.