Circle V Ranch Camp, operated by Society of St. Vincent de Paul since 1945, welcomes all children.A tradition that began nearly seven decades ago will continue this summer in near Cachuma Lake north of Santa Barbara.

The Circle V Ranch, owned and operated by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of Los Angeles, is a multifaceted camp whose mission is to serve children, youth and families from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties by providing innovative and enriching outdoor experiences that build self esteem and expand knowledge and appreciation of others, nature and God. 

Open to people of all beliefs, Circle V was founded in 1945 by Msgr. James E. Dolan, who directed the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for 37 years (as well as the Catholic Youth organization and Catholic scouting). His goal was to offer children in need a wilderness experience mentored by positive role models that will give them the self-esteem and social resiliency they need to empower them at school and assist them in forming productive relationships with parents, teachers and peers. 

Between 1954 and 1990, the Society leased several different locations for its summer camp program. But in 1990 the Society purchased the Circle V Ranch (originally owned by the Boy Scouts) in the Santa Barbara back country to guarantee a permanent location. 

Today, the camp offers nine, one-week sessions of resident camping programs that revolve around its ranch brand, the Circle V, which stresses respecting and getting along with others, even in trying situations.

“Specifically, the Circle reminds us to love God and the V to love our neighbors as ourselves,” says Ray Lopez, who started as a counselor at Circle V in 1993, has been its director since 2008, and is proud that --- because of “camperships” financed by donors --- the camp is available to all, particularly those from economically-challenged homes. “No child is turned away due to lack of funds.”

Circle V Ranch, he continues, seeks to provide each child with a camp experience that will enable them to grow as individuals. The primary means for accomplishing this is through the “outfit” or group experience. 

“A child comes to the program and is assigned an outfit based upon their age,” he explains. “With their fellow outfit-ranchers they learn about the Circle V brand and what teamwork is all about. They learn the importance of camaraderie, responsibility, shared emotions and faith, pride in their group and in accomplishing tasks through cooperative effort, and fun in interrelating with their peers.”

A second component is the Camp’s activity periods in which campers can participate in their activity of choice, or spend time with friends and counselors who are not in their outfit. During their stay at camp, children may choose from such activities as arts and crafts, aquatics, sports, nature study, field trips to Lake Cachuma and Goleta County Beach, and campfire programs, along with lots of songs and great food. The Camp’s staff is fully certified to facilitate specific programs, such as archery, swimming and nature classes.

More than 1,100 youth were hosted at Circle V in 2011, and applications and camperships (scholarships) are now being accepted for 2012 Summer Camp sessions, each six days and five nights of traditional supervised activities for boys and girls ages 7-13. For ages 15-17, a Camper in Leadership Training (CILT) program is offered. 

The first summer session is June 27-July 2. Subsequent sessions are July 6-11; July 11-16; July 18-23; July 23-28; July 31-Aug. 5; Aug. 5-10; and Aug. 11-16. The cost per session is $350 per child; “camperships” which reduce the fee to $60 (the remaining $290 paid by charitable donations) are available for qualified campers. For information, contact the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, (323) 224-6213, or Ray Lopez, (805) 688-5252.

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