Camp Laurel camper, Isaac, met with members of PAC for the tri-annual Mentorship event where he and other campers talked about their favorite things, aspirations, and what makes them happy.

This year, the Pediatric AIDS Coalition at UCLA has joined forces with The Laurel Foundation in an effort to forge connections with organizations that serve local communities of children affected by HIV/AIDS. The newest beneficiary of PAC’s fundraising, The Laurel Foundation has been empowering HIV positive youth and those affected by HIV through week-long camps — known as Camp Laurel — and year-round educational programs for 25 years. The Pasadena based nonprofit organization serves around 500 HIV-positive, transgender, and at-risk children every year by striving to bring a sense of normalcy to the lives of youth in communities that are often marginalized.

The Laurel Foundation is a well-established nonprofit fiercely dedicated to serving communities of children that are either at risk of or directly impacted by HIV/AIDS. Camp Laurel’s enthusiasm and professionalism allow minors from often difficult backgrounds find a space to be with other people that empathize with their struggles. By building connections with Camp Laurel, PAC hopes to carry on The Laurel Foundation’s legacy of fostering a community that does not let any child feel isolated, regardless of HIV status.

According to Isaiah Rutledge, PAC’s Director of Family Relations, the new collaboration will usher in more joint programs to build meaningful relationships with the youth and staff at Camp Laurel. As of now, there are plans of hosting quarterly events so that PAC members can start to forge mentoring bonds with the Camp Laurel children.

Jayden, a Camp Laurel camper who participated in PAC’s 2018 Fall Mentorship event last month.

“PAC will continue our direct-service work by programming one mentorship event each quarter, as well as our Life Skills Retreat for high-school-aged students during Winter Quarter,” Rutledge said. “Since this is a new partnership we are also excited to expand our service to support Camp Laurel in any of their programmings.”

According to Margot Anderson, the founder of The Laurel Foundation, the organization has been waiting for an opportunity to pair up with PAC because of the resources that the club can provide to youth affected by HIV/AIDS, including mentorship and new events.

Star, who wants to one day be a Youtuber, is another Camp Laurel camper who benefits from PAC’s donations and fundraising efforts.

In fact, PAC has already had a successful first event with Camp Laurel to inaugurate the collaboration, and also assisted The Laurel Foundation at it’s annual Holiday Party earlier this December. On November 19, the Family Committee put on a Fall Mentorship event where several members of Laurel campers ages six to sixteen came to UCLA’s Sunset Recreation Center to bond with general committee members on PAC. The day consisted of events from camp games like Capture the Flag to a Cause activity for the older campers and ended with “Happy Notes,” an activity where each person writes uplifting and positive messages to everyone they met at the event.

Jose is another Camp Laurel camper who met with PAC members last month for reflection, camp games, and cause education.

Anderson says she is nothing but thrilled to see how the budding collaboration between PAC and Camp Laurel will elevate the programs and experiences of the children both organizations aim to serve.

“What I would love to see is we really lay a solid foundation and the two of us to work together,” Anderson said. “I would love to have [PAC] involved and to be a part of our team. I want us to be one team because our kids love the stability. I look forward to seeing your volunteers year after year.

14% of PAC’s total funds raised this year will be allocated to the Laurel Foundation educational and summer camp programs as the organization continues the fight against Pediatric HIV/AIDS both in and outside of the Los Angeles community.

Written by Adrija Chakrabarty