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Explore and Grow

06/30/2008 05:00PM, Published by Super Admin, Categories: In Print




Funding is cut, money is tight, schedules are strained and school administrators are forced to make some hard choices. Unfortunately, music and art programs are usually the first to suffer from necessary cutbacks. It is as true today as it was nearly a half a century ago.

“Music and art is important to round out the personality of every human being,” Clara Neilsen says. And she should know. As one of the original founders of Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp, she has seen success for more than 48 years. The camp started in 1959 as an answer to budget problems with the local schools when the county board of education decided to pull all arts and music education out of the curriculum. Sound familiar?

To help continue this important part of the educational process, the camp was born. It started small, offering only music instruction one week a summer, hosting less than 30 kids. Today, two weeks of music, dance, photography, drama and more is available in a supportive and positive environment accommodating more than 400 students from El Dorado County, ages 10 to 17.

Two, six-day camp gatherings are held near Pollock Pines each summer. The camp’s mission is to provide each camper with an affordable, exceptional and educational experience, while bringing people from diverse backgrounds together to promote understanding. The counselors, teachers and campers work together to provide a safe atmosphere free from peer pressure. It’s a place where everyone has the opportunity to take risks and grow.

“We’re more concerned [about] the process, than the final product,” Nicoles “Big Dog” Ridout, the camp’s director says. “We want everyone to have fun and experience the things they don’t normally get to the rest of the year.” “Big Dog” has had fun at camp for nearly 45 years. He started as a camper, graduated to counselor, and is director of the entire camp. “For me,” Ridout says, “the work I do in these two weeks pales to the rest of my year.” Like Ridout, the majority of the counselors, teachers and staff are veteran campers. They proudly call themselves “Sugarloafers.”

The camp does not turn anyone away because they cannot afford the registration fee. Scholarships amounting to $25,000 were awarded this year. The Sugarloaf Station Foundation oversees the camp and its finances and pays nearly 40 percent of the scholarship monies and private donors fund the remainder.

“Kids are not judged at camp,” says Foundation president Paul Zappettini, “all that they do is supported in a safe haven usually not available in our current world.” The camp promotes values and provides experiences that kids will take into adulthood. “As kids progress through their lives, they can draw on the support they received here.” Zappettini says.

The experience is best summed up in a letter written by a grateful camper when she learned of receiving scholarship money for the 2008 season: “Sugarloaf gives me the opportunity to be myself, and everybody is equal. Everyone loves and cares for each other.”

To find out more about the Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp, visit <a href="http://www.sugarloafcamp.com" target="_blank">sugarloafcamp.com</a>. <br><br><span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;"> or call 530-622-7130.

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