News: MCB Hawaii supports students at ‘Winners’ Camp’
Story by Christine Cabalo
WAIMANALO — When incoming Kailua Intermediate School students reach the heights of “Winners’ Camp” next month, it’s because of support from Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
For more than a decade, the base has donated furniture recycled from barracks and volunteers helping with maintenance of the camp, located atop Kamehame Ridge. The site will host more than 50 incoming middle school students for five days starting June 14.
“We were using just fold-out cots when we first had camp,” said Delorese Gregoire, founding director, Winner’s Camp. “Then we were introduced to [Marine Corps Base Hawaii officials] 11 years ago to get the first set of beds from the base. The only way for us to get more beds would have been to use our own money, leaving less money for scholarships to the course.”
Groups of 40 or more students participate in trips of five to seven days at the camp. The students have several group activities including a ropes course and classes that develop life skills like collaboration. The camp activities, available since 1985, is for students 13 to 16 years old.
“It’s a great leadership training course for teenagers,” she said. ““It gives them tools to become successful for all areas of their lives.”
To support the camp, the base often donates its spare bunk beds and mattresses for student use. A total of 114 bunk beds are on site, with 20 full-length mirrors also recently donated.
“The mirrors are for hanging up on the wall so that whenever students do hula, tai chi or any other muscle arts, they see themselves,” she said. “It’s a real big help for posture and standing up straight.”
Through the years, MCB Hawaii units have also donated time and labor to keep the campsite in top condition for students. In June 2009, more than 30 Marines from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment helped in maintenance projects.
Platoons from 1/3 painted dorms, cleared away plants and ensured the campsite’s obstacle courses were safe. The camp’s operating budget is small, Gregoire said, and her foundation is able to continue thanks to generous volunteers.
“The base’s support has been life saving and provides us a great quality of life we wouldn’t have had,” Gregoire said. “The Marines have made repairs, helped in landscaping and have done so many things for us.”
The well-maintained campsite will be ready for the group of incoming Kailua Intermediate School students, many who formerly attended Mokapu Elementary and other schools with military families.
The group is able to attend at no cost with help from the MCB Hawaii School Liaison Office and Christopher Blanchard, chief of staff, MCB Hawaii. Together, they were able to request a grant from Joint Venture Education Forum to support the trip.
Blanchard also is scheduled to visit the students June 16, to support them during the ropes course event.
“Transition from elementary school to middle school has been identified as a critical step in a child’s academic progression,” Blanchard said. “Attendance at the Winners’ Camp will give Kailua Intermediate School a cadre of students, new sixth-graders and some seventh- and eighth-graders, to provide assistance to other children making the transition to a new school.”
Ensuring students have a chance to attend the camp was important because of the skills students learn there, said Derrick Kerr, school liaison officer, MCB Hawaii. After training, Kerr said students walk away with time management skills, community awareness, leadership skills and how to be a responsible citizen.
“Those skills are something we all need, not just young adults,” Kerr said. “Those skills transcend grades and are used in high school and beyond.”