Milepost #911

February 14, 2019

By Ken Brafman, Image from Camp Paivika Archives

There’s a camp in Crestline that has been providing lots of year-round fun to kids with special needs for over 70 years. The name is from the Cahuilla and means “dawn.” Nestled on some 11 acres out on the Rim, Camp Paivika has a history which has been focused on opportunity. Crippled Children’s Society was founded in 1926 by Lawrence L. Frank, a Rotarian. The name AbilityFirst was adopted in 1999. In the 1940’s and 50’s polio as well as birth defects were robbing children of their childhood and causing much suffering. Lucia Laufeld was a special education teacher in Los Angeles who approached Mr. Frank. He shared in the vision of a camp where disabled or special needs kids could go and get to just be kids. A special use permit was obtained in order to develop the site on Playground Drive. Growth has been steady and by the time the camp celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1997 there were a swimming pool and gazebo built as well as dormitories, crafts center, dining hall, fully-equipped cabins and more. A popular spot is the recreation room which contains a large screen TV along with other technology as well as game tables and entertainment. There are horseback riding lessons and many more activities. Kelly Kunsek joined the camp in 1995 and is the current director. Ms. Kunsek notes, “We have been doing the same thing for over 70 years and we’ve never missed a summer.” Due to the camp’s location the Old Fire of 2003 was a major threat but thanks to the high presence and hard work of the various agencies, the camp was saved. “It was very scary, watching the fire skirting the Rim,” adds Ms. Kunsek. “We had to evacuate the horses and other animals via Hwy. 173.” Camp Paivika continues to grow. A new, updated swimming pool was completed in 2014. For more information call (909) 338-1102.

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