'Day in the Park' Funds Summer Camp for Sick Kids

To say that summer is a busy time for the Taylor Family Foundation (TTFF) is an understatement. Not only is the program at the foundation-sponsored Camp Arroyo, a retreat for special-needs children, in full swing, but the organization's Day in the Park fundraiser, on Sunday, August 24, is rapidly approaching.

"Both have to be perfect," insists Elaine Taylor, who with her husband Barry founded the public non-profit in 1991. Since then, TTFF has helped thousands of northern California children who suffer from life-threatening illnesses or disabilities by providing medical care and psychological support. Much of that comes from the busy line-up of activities at the 144-bed camp near the Del Valle Reservoir in Livermore.

Each week-long rotation is devoted to a cluster of campers with related ailments, such as Gut-Busters (crohn's disease, colitits, etc.) to We Can, the brain tumor group. Camp Wonder, for kids with grave, even fatal, skin diseases, is such a unique gathering that it has attracted the support of U.C.L.A.'s medical school, which is sending some two dozen dermatology fellows to tend to and learn from these pint-sized heroes. "Some of these diseases are so painful and debilitating, yet these are the most charming, courageous, heroic kids," Taylor comments.

The special camps give the children respite from daily lives that are all too often filled with premature worries. A broad array of recreational opportunities - from physical challenges like rock climbing, swimming, and horseback riding to the camaraderie-building talent shows and campfire sing-a-longs - coaxes out their youthful spirit. "They have so much fun acting like kids!" Taylor observes. "Here they can talk freely with peers about dealing with similar issues. A safety net evolves, and they take home life-long friendships."

Almost as rewarding is the foundation's annual Day in the Park, whose proceeds fund camp stays for more than 2,000 kids each year (this summer's goal is 2,300). Combining hors d'oeuvres, lunch, desserts, and a steady flow of beverages with a silent and live auction, this festive occasion has been called the premier event of the East Bay by noted food expert Narsai David.

The culinary treats, from the Bay Area's top gourmet restaurants and leading wineries, are impressive, but the show of support for the foundations's cause is nothing short of phenomenal. Even before the bidding starts on a parade of once-in-a-lifetime experiences (piloting a fighter jet, heli-skiing in Alaska, hiking in the U.K.'s lake district, or cooking school in Italy), attendees eagerly vie for the chance to sponsor multiple campers with generous donations for which they receive "nothing in return but smiling faces," Taylor relates. "Last year we had three people committing to $50,000 each. These people want nothing more than to provide services directly for kids who definitely need them. To me that is the true heart of giving. It's the most wonderful thing to watch - a melting moment."

Day in the Park takes place on Sunday, August 24, from noon to 6:30 p.m. at Camp Arroyo, 5555 Arroyo Road, Livermore. For ticket details, volunteer opportunities, and other information about the Taylor Family Foundation's good works, visit www.ttff.org or call (925) 455-5118.

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