Getting outside can be hard these days.
Between the lure of television, video games and social media, there are lots of reasons to stay inside. That’s especially true if you live in a city, or the “concrete jungle.” Even in a sprawling metropolis like Los Angeles surrounded by national parks, mountains and the ocean, there are whole neighborhoods full of cement, with hardly any grass or trees in sight. For the kids who live there, the idea of “nature” is practically a dream.
That’s why over the weekend of June 25, Stansport hosted our third annual Family & Friends Campout at Lake Castaic for the families that needed it most.
“It smells like nature! It smells like nature!”
That’s what Martha Morales’ two children kept telling her after the family had set up their tent at the campsite, just a short walk from the Castaic Lagoon, some 30 minutes north of Los Angeles. Sophia, 12, and Mauricio, 15, had never been camping before, but after an hour of being away from their phones, they were ready to explore the quiet, wooded areas and beaches that surrounded them.
Stansport, in partnership with LAPD Devonshire PALS, gave over two dozen families the opportunity to boat, barbecue and relax under the stars in a 24-hour crash course on the great outdoors.
The Morales were just three of 80 novice campers enjoying Stansports’ third annual event. The 24-hour excursion into the wilderness was designed to empower attendees to plan ahead, pack the right supplies, and learn how to set up up tents—everything they needed to know in order to venture out on their own adventures someday. Over the course of Saturday, the families were instructed how to set up their own camp sites before going in several groups out onto the lake for two hours of kayaking, canoeing or just chilling in the sand. A short boat and water safety course was generously taught and overseen by CSUN’s Aquatic Center at Castaic Lake. After dinner, everyone gathered around the campfire to roast marshmallows, make s’mores and tell stories before settling into quiet reverie of the stars above, fully visible away from the bright lights of Los Angeles.
This year, the campout grew to over 80 attendees.
Robert Lafferty, Key Account Sales Associate here at Stansport, has been spearheading the event since its inception. The primary goal of the annual campout has been to initiate as many people as possible into the joys and benefits of the outdoors. Inner-city youth are often completely without access to nature. And that’s exactly who Lafferty wants the annual event to benefit.
In past years, Lafferty has partnered with the Boys & Girls Club. This year, he teamed up with the Devonshire Police Activity League Supporters (PALS), a non-profit that provides LA’s inner-city youth with amazing after-school programs, everything from tutoring to dance lessons, all absolutely free. Earlier this year, the kids got to go to Disneyland, the beach, up into the mountain to see snow, and now, thanks to Stansport, they got to go camping.
“I think there’s a lot of value if you spend time outdoors with friends and family. There’s a lot of personal connection there when you’re outdoors and [not distracted] by computers and the rigors of the day-to-day” Lafferty said. “It’s great to breathe in fresh air. We really believe in the simple things like that.”
Sue Bruno, executive administrator for Devonshire PALS, was blown away by the opportunity when Stansport approached her organization for partnership. “I think [the kids we work with] are surrounded by a lot of cement. Our youth center was strategically placed in a section of Northridge that literally has no parks within walking distance. Their schools are locked up at the end of the day. There’s a mall but most of them are too young to go by themselves. They don’t have grass and trees or places to play. This [campout] is an amazing opportunity for them to just be surrounded by something other than telephone poles.”
Fresh air improves your mood, and this campout might have actually changed some lives.
Martha Morales, for her part, now has the confidence to take her two children on more trips like this in the future.
“Now I don’t think this is so intimidating. I’d like to do more outdoor stuff,” she said. “[My kids] are active, but not outdoors. They play basketball or indoor soccer. But not enough outdoors.” Next up, she’d like to take her kids hiking, especially in Santa Monica mountains.
Stansport’s goal is to “make camping fun,” and with this event, the idea is certainly catching on with the people they’re working with.
But Lafferty has some even bigger goals in mind:
“We’ve seen a lot of recognition for the event this year. We’re trying to inspire other companies within our industry to give back and encourage people to get outdoors, camp, hike and just enjoy everything there is to enjoy about being out in nature. We want the next generation of kids to enjoy camping and disconnect from their computers and cell phones, even if it’s just for a weekend. To see how easy and fun it can be to just pitch a tent sits under the stars and have a BBQ.”
We’re thrilled to lead the way!