Fifty years of 49er Camp. That’s a lot of kids having a lot of fun. Among them were Lauren Gloady, now 16, and her sister Christina, 14, who each spent five summers there.
“I loved the variety of sports we were taught,” Lauren said. “We did about four sports a day. We swam every day, which was always fun. It definitely kept me in shape. My favorite sports had to be bowling and archery. They were both sports I couldn’t go into my backyard and do, so I always enjoyed the experience.
“What I remember most were the friends I made,” she added. “I really got close to them while spending every day together each summer for four straight weeks for five consecutive years. I continue to run into some of these friends through soccer. Seeing them always brings a smile to my face and with it, the nostalgic feeling of my 49er Camp days. I often think about returning to be a 49er Camp counselor to give the kids the opportunity to have the same experiences I did.”
When it began in 1964, the camp was, in part, a way to provide summer employment for several coaches and professors while providing a 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. Wuesthoff, who headed the camp since its start, handpicked Hayes as his replacement.
“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 participants in one six-week session to a pair of four-week sessions and 900 campers every summer. It’s a huge sense of duty.
“We do feel a great responsibility,” said Hayes. “If a child isn’t athletic or doesn’t have great physical skills, that’s OK; 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 look forward to coming back the next day and I think we’ve accomplished that for the last 50 years.”
In later years, CSULB added other summer youth sessions such as Young Writers’ Camp and Young Scientists’ Camp, allowing students the option of dividing their day between academics and sports.
Christina Gloady fondly recalls her experiences. “I will always remember demo day when the parents would come and watch what we had been doing at the camp, especially when we would dance. We had the best time. One year we danced to ‘Black and Yellow.’ The moves were very dexterous and amusing. That was the most favorite dance we did while I was there.
“Track was my favorite activity,” she continued. “I remember running the mile, feeling like I could do anything. It was the best feeling with the wind blowing in my face, my adrenaline pumping. When I was done, I would be tired and out of breath, but I would always want to get back on the track and do it again.”
To learn more, visit 49er Summer Camps.
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