[Courtesy photo]

Anjelica is overflowing with excitement, like any kid talking about their summer at camp. 

She tells exciting stories about new challenges she faced this summer: She learned the names of the night stars, saw the ocean, made friendship bracelets with young people from all over the country, and shrieked with other campers when raccoons rustled around their campsite at night. 

Anjelica Bonita Rosales Santana had just finished fifth grade when she got on an airplane in Salt Lake City for the very first time, flying to Washington to spend a full month at Camp Nor’Wester. 

“When I was in Salt Lake, I was so nervous I was crying,” she says. “But in the morning, I took a deep breath, brushed my teeth and just went. It was so fun.”

She’s one of a growing number of Grand County youth who have gone to camp courtesy of the Fun Fund, the brainchild of Stefanie Biron, a therapist in the Grand County School District. Now, the Fun Fund is looking to grow and send more students to build new experiences at camp in 2023—with the community’s help.

Anjelica Santana made new friends and lifelong memories at Camp Nor’Wester in Washington. [Courtesy photo]

“As part of my job as a therapist, I see a lot of kids who don’t have a lot of opportunity to do stuff that they want to do,” Biron said. “My goal is to take those barriers away, because I think having experiences is so important.”

She started the Fun Fund out of her own pocket to provide those opportunities, supporting kids going to equine therapy groups and horseback lessons with Mel Hare. 

“I had kids who wanted to keep going with that,” she said, “and I just posted on my Facebook: ‘hey, can anyone help pay for horseback riding lessons?’ and, you know, I got about $1,500 in support.”

With the encouragement of that community support, Biron looked at how to grow the Fun Fund, which has also received contributions from the Moab 100 Women’s Club, a local philanthropic group. 

Ahzure Reed attended Camp Thunderbird in Minnesota with support from the Fun Fund. [Courtesy photo]

In 2021, the Fun Fund supported a local high school student headed to camp, working with the Colorado-based Deer Hill Foundation. The student’s experience was so positive, Biron said that she knew she wanted the fund to help more local young people go to camp. After some research, she found an organization called A Thousand Summers, a nonprofit that seeks to change kids’ lives by giving them access to summer camp experiences. 

After some hectic last-minute phone calls, Anjelica received a full scholarship to camp from A Thousand Summers. 

“These camps are expensive, so that was amazing,” Biron said. Still, going to a summer camp requires plenty of other expenses, like travel costs, medical check-ups, camping supplies and lots of paperwork. 

“We help with the whole process, depending on what the families need,” Biron said. That included driving a nervous Anjelica up to Salt Lake City for her very first airplane flight. 

“To be in fifth grade and never really leave this area,” Biron said with excitement, “then to fly to Washington after you have never been on a plane before? Like, that’s just really a cool story!”

Juliana Vizcarra Marquez went camping with Deer Hill Expeditions. [Courtesy photo]

After seeing the memories, excitement and self-confidence that going to camp has given the students she’s worked with, Biron wants to increase the Fun Fund’s impact with the community’s support. Her goal for this year is to send four local kids to camp. 

“I’ve noticed that the more things like this happen, the more the kids want to do more stuff,” said Biron. “They want to take risks and learn, and I think that’s super important.” 

Anjelica is also inspiring the people around her. 

“Now my best friend really wants to go to camp bad,” Anjelica said. With all her newfound experience, she was able to give her friend some well-earned advice. 

“I told her, ‘you will be so nervous to go,’” she said, “‘but when you get there it will be awesome.’”

To learn more and get involved with the Fun Fund, contact Stefanie Biron at birons@grandschools.org or 435-719-4709.