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Boys & Girls Club members begin their descent on the zip lines featured at Camp Whittier during a special Member's Day event on April 24.

Camp Whittier reopened its doors April 24 for the first time in 15 months and welcomed 94 members of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County for a special Member's Day event. 

The 94-acre, year-round camp and retreat center located in the hills of the Los Padres National Forest just north of Santa Barbara hosts a number of science, leadership and themed camp, all of which were put on pause during the pandemic. 

"After a 15-month hiatus seeing our club kids from all our clubs back up at Camp Whittier again was a sight I will not soon forget," said Boys & Girls Clubs CEO Michael Baker. "Camp Whittier is truly a special place, and we can't wait to see it full every day."

Laurie Leis, executive vice president of advancement for the Boys & Girls Clubs, said the ropes challenge course, rock wall and zipline offered children the chance to overcome their post-lockdown fears. 

"How do we push ourselves to overcome our fears, especially after being in lockdowns from the pandemic?" Leis asked. "Well, our club kids showed us how on Saturday on the ropes challenge course after climbing a 30-foot rock wall and jumping off on the zip line.

"I think the youngest was 7," Leis said. "As she came up to me shaking, she said, 'I did it!' I get empowered every day I'm around our kids."

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Boys & Girls Clubs members take a break from a day of outdoor activities hosted by Camp Whittier on April 24.

The full day of fun was sponsored by the Audacious Foundation and managed by local software company FastSpring, whose employees signed up to volunteer for the special day to support the high and low ropes course, clean and sanitize equipment, and assist with hikes and archery, a Boys & Girls Clubs spokeswoman said. 

Members also took part in other field activities that included zip lining and a STEM-based exercise from the the Eling's Math & Science curriculum.

In addition to field days at Camp Whittier, the Audacious Foundation also funded the Boys & Girls Clubs' after-school program "SMART Journeys" from September 2020 to May 2021. The program has given members an opportunity to earn prizes through hard work, including the opportunity to attend a Member's Day event at Camp Whittier.

All eight sites from Carpinteria to Lompoc are participating in a series of after-school programs from 3 to 6 p.m., at no cost to children who qualify for free and reduced school lunches.

Additionally, for three hours Monday through Friday, hundreds of Boys & Girls Clubs members have taken part in dance and yoga classes, organic gardening, various outdoor activities, and are offered healthy snacks, the spokeswoman said.

The Boys & Girls Clubs is planning to hold a second Member's Day at Camp Whittier in June with the inclusion of even more members, said the spokeswoman, who added that health and safety protocols limiting the number of members and activities will be in place. 

For more information or to book a stay at Camp Whittier, visit unitedbg.org/camp-whittier or call 805-962-776.

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Boys & Girls Clubs members take aim during an archery class held at Camp Whittier on April 24.

Lisa André covers lifestyles and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record. 

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