A History of Wilderness Camp
~ OVER 25 PROUD YEARS ~
as the "Lions of California - Nevada Wilderness Camp for Deaf
Children" in 1980, this original purpose was declared: "To
provide wilderness camping facilities, experiences, educational
opportunities, health care and counseling for hearing impaired children."
Roger Adams, a man from Stockton with a deaf son, requested the
Lions help establish a deaf camp. The Governors got together at
a Council Meeting to approve MD-4 endorsement and start the wheels
in motion to align the camp with Lions Clubs International. Official
incorporation on Sept. 10, 1981 finalized the procedure. Roger Adams
became Executive Director. The first officers were elected in December
1981. PDG Roy Buddhu (L 6) was President in '81 - '83 followed by
PDG Walter Cornell (A6) in '83 - 84. In 1984 PDG Bill Billeci (C3)
took the presidency.
Camp was first held at Avery, CA. in the mountains above Angels
Camp. Kids from as far away as San Diego benefited. The first camp
staff and all support was made up of boy scouts. But, in 1982 a
new staff was proficient in sign language. Four hundred children
applied for camp but only 258 could be accommodated. West Torrance
Lions Club was the largest supporter donating $5,000, fishing gear
and a charted bus. Donations of approximately $42,000 in contributions
came from Lions and Lions Clubs. A campership was $185.
The first "Visitors' Day" was sponsored by Bethel Island
Lions Club in 1982. They still provide this service today. In 1984
it was named "Harry Aslan Day" in honor of MD-4's own
International President and in appreciation for the produce donated
by Aslan Packing Co. They continue to donate even though the plant
was sold in 2000. In 1983 Bethel Island Lioness sewed neck scarves
and donated $3,500. It took 6 round trips from Fresno that first
year to transport fruit and kids. The camp was held at Avery for
five years then at Bucks Lake near Quincy in 1986. It was held
Odd Fellows Lodge East of Sonora for 2 years after that. Finally,
a week at beautiful, scenic, high mountain Camp Sylvester at Pinecrest
became available for lease from the Farm Bureau in 1989.
North Camp was held there until 2003. In 2004 the camp moved
to a facility operated by the Clovis Unified School
District called the Regional Learning Center.
Located north and East of Sonora, it promises to
be the most exciting facility yet.
A camp at Ojai was obtained
money was collected for upgrades. However, problems arose that
not be surmounted. Camp was never held there. From 2004 to 2006
the camp used a facility operated by the Clovis Unified School
District called the Regional Learning Center located north and
east of Sonora. In January 2007, a camp near Nevada City, California,
owned and operated by the Optimist Clubs was acquired. Improvements
began immediately and it was ready for use by the summer season.
Renamed the Gold Country Lions Camp, it continues to be an outstanding
camp for the Deaf programs.
Camp in the south was also held at various rented sights including
Arbolado, until 1994. Then Camp Teresita Pines near Wrightwood in
the Angeles National Forest was purchased by Wilderness Camp for
$40,000. Improvements began to get the camp into shape and by 1998
a management group was formed to handle the increasing rentals,
upkeep and improvements. Clubs in the area adopted cabins. Lions
upgraded the facility into a desirable year round camp. Two weeks
of Deaf Camp have been held there every year since.
PDG Matt Hunyadi (L4), was instrumental in the acquisition while
he was President in '94-'96. He was preceded in that office by
aforementioned and; PDG Tim Miskel (A3), PID Bill Iannaccone (C3),
Ron Wilson and PDG Al Neblett (C7). Jack Moore (C3) came after,
in '96-'98, then Earle Ford (C2) in '98-'00 and Richard P. Kirchner
(C3) in '00-'01. Mike Laws (L2) ’01-’03 was followed
by PDG Bill Johnson (C-3) ’03-’04, Diana Halsey (C-5) ’05-’06
and Roy Rinaldi (L-4) ’06-’08. William Arnold (C-3)
has been president since ’08.
Many other Lions contributed to the camp's success through the
If you and your Lions Club want to be a part of the legacy of Wilderness
Camp for Deaf Children as it begins the new millennium, tell your
District Chairman, a Director or Officer you will help by donating
(camperships, food or supplies), or by volunteering.