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49er Summer Camp Celebrating 50 Years

Published: July 15, 2014

49er Summer Camp Celebrating 50 Years
PHOTO BY DAVID J. NELSON

Fifty years of 49er Camp. That’s a lot of kids.

At the time it began in 1964, the camp was, in part, a way to give summer employment for some coaches and professors, while providing a wide variety of activities for 100 children.

“Bob Wuesthoff wanted to do something to connect with the community and start getting kids on campus,” said Rick Hayes, a 1967 CSULB graduate and the camp’s director for the last decade. He was the hand-picked replacement by Wuesthoff, who headed the camp since its inception.

“This is Bob’s program,” said Hayes, noting that former athletics director Fred Miller also played a role in the camp’s inception. “My responsibility is to maintain his memory through the camp. That’s one of my goals in life. When he turned the 49er Camp over to me 10 years ago, it was the biggest honor I’ve ever had in my life.”

The camp, originally called 49er Youth Fitness Camp, has grown from the original 100 children participating in one six-week session, to a pair of four-week sessions and 900 campers every summer. It’s a huge responsibility.

“We do feel a great responsibility,” said Hayes. “If a child isn’t athletic or doesn’t have great physical skills that’s okay; we will teach them. This camp is really a combination of P.E. and recreation with a little athletics. We want them to feel comfortable on a college campus. We try to make it like family with fun and a little structure.”

There are 16 different activities, including staples like swimming, basketball, archery, softball and tennis. Rugby was introduced to the camp about three years ago and it’s looking to add lacrosse, a little international flavor as Hayes phrased it.

“This summer camp is a community relations blessing and Bob Wuesthoff saw that from the very beginning,” said Hayes. “He was a visionary. We want to serve the youth of our cities. We want them to have fun and get hands-on experience. We want them to look forward to coming back the next day and I think we’ve accomplished that for the last 50 years.”