Santa Barbara- S County

Donation drive to rebuild Camp Whittier comes with a boost for United Boys & Girls Club

Matching grant available now until July 8

A dollar for dollar match up to $150,000 has been made to help Camp Whittier rebuild for the United Boys & Girls club off San Marcos Pass after wildfire impacts. (John Palminteri/

Santa Ynez Valley, Calif. - Heavy equipment has arrived and rebuilding is underway at Camp Whittier near Cachuma Lake, run by the United Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara County.

Two years ago the area was engulfed in flames.

The Whittier fire destroyed or damaged a large part of the 93-acre site used by thousands of kids for an outdoor experience some say they remember for a lifetime.

"There were four cabins here, three of them were completely decimated by the fire, one had a tree that fell on it," Chief Executive Officer  Michael Baker said in the construction zone.

Insurance money will not cover all of the replacement costs, including a requirement for larger retaining walls up to 20-feet deep in the soil where kids cabins had burned.

"We are looking at a $300,000 to $400,000 shortfall," said Baker

One thing not taken away by the fire was hope or a plan.

Underway now, is a one month-long rapid fundraising drive. It comes with a matching grant from the Mericos Foundation of up to $150,000 To help with the new costs, new buildings and a larger camp capacity. If that amount or a portion of it comes in, the money will be doubled. The deadline is July 8 - the two year anniversary of the fire.

The location 17 miles from Santa Barbara is a special site near Cachuma Lake and a camp few kids even knew about prior to their outing.

"You're in the great outdoors," said Baker. "You're in a whole other world. The kids who come here certainly have never been here before and this is their first experience away from home at a sleep away camp. It's 93 acres where they are going to see wild turkeys, and deer walking by and squirrels and chipmunks. We have everything here. These kids are excited!"

Right now, a one-week Santa Barbara International Film festival camp is underway. Throughout the year, coming here has proven to be a game changer for many kids.

"Absolutely. I see that not only here, I see that every day at the Boys and Girls club," said Baker. 

Differences are tossed aside and bonding takes place. "By the time they get to be teenagers they're not going to fight, they've known each other for 8 years."

The clubs served include Carpinteria, Santa Barbara Westside, Goleta, Buellton, Solvang and Lompoc.

Kids from out of the area come to the site too.

When children are not their in their outdoor classes, it is used for corporate retreats, weddings, and other rental uses.

The donations made to the current rebuilding cause will have a return that's both immediate and seen for years ahead.

"Take stock in the future. Invest in the Boys and Girls club. It is an investment that will pay dividends for generations to come," said Baker.

For more information or to make a donation click here.

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