2022 Grants Challenge

Everybody Deserves Camp

HappyTrails for Kids believes that Everybody Deserves Camp. Our overnight camp and year-round extracurricular and educational engagements transforms the lives of children experiencing foster care. Happy Trails summer camp gives children reasons to celebrate, reminding them that they are resilient, they are important, and that they belong.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Extracurricular and enrichment engagements have shown to be effective interventions for children in foster care. In addition to promoting positive behaviors and relationships, participation in these enriching activities provides meaningful educational, social, and developmental advancement. Despite the recognition of the importance of extracurricular involvement, the policies and practices within the child welfare system, including insufficient case planning, limited judicial and legal advocacy and lack of funding, have created barriers to youth access. Recognizing the gaps and inequities facing children growing up in the child welfare system, Happy Trails for Kids prioritizes programming that provides youth with opportunity to develop passions, interests, new skills and feel like they belong to a community.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Our overnight summer and winter camps incorporate outdoor adventures, access to nature, and foster a sense of community to the over 400 children and youth annually. Campers remain connected to the program – and each other – through year-round monthly educational and recreational workshops called “reunion events”. Happy Trails understands that the “extras” in life matter. We have designed our programming to help propel youth participants to succeed academically, personally, and professionally. Happy Trails for Kids champions our overnight camping program. Youth overwhelming report the positive impact overnight camp has on their lives, and how they are empowered by the experiences at camp – and taking those new skills and confidence with them long after camp ends. In addition to overnight camp, we offer a range of services and support to youth throughout the year A critical component of our programming model includes our staff structure. Connections to camp counselors, the majority of whom have had lived experience in foster care, create opportunities for campers to develop meaningful relationships with role models. Over 70% of our camp staff understand, first-hand, the challenges of growing up in the child welfare system. This insight not only strengthens the trust and connections developed between youth and counselors, but also contributes enormously to our programming approach and priorities.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Los Angeles County has the largest foster care population in the nation. Each child experiencing foster care has their own story. While we cannot change past chapters, we can help change the narrative. By creating the expectation that children impacted by the system deserve the opportunity to celebrate childhood and benefit from nature and play, we are reinforcing that happiness and hope matter. Children might experience uncertainty and changes in their placements, schools, family life, but by offering more children the opportunity to attend summer camp each year, we can create a sense of consistency and joy that can be transformative in the life of a child.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Primary data collection will occur during pre and post summer evaluation measures, as well in specialized initiatives. The data collected from youth, counselors and caregivers will help inform how we can better serve this population. Quantitative • 83% of Junior Counselors identified connections as the most valued aspect of the program. • 100% of the Junior Counselors stated that Happy Trails has had a positive impact on their lives. • 88% of caregivers/providers reported that attending the Happy Trails played an important role in improving their child’s self-esteem. Qualitative • “Happy Trails has helped me understand that I am not alone in my situation and that I have a second opportunity to own my history and thrive.” – Junior Counselor • “Happy Trails feeds the skills of communication, leadership, teamwork, compassion, and independence.” - Caregiver • “It has had a positive impact on me because my camp counselors constantly encourage me to pursue my dreams”- Camper

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 120

Indirect Impact: NaN