Program

Summer Session 2 Recap!

Hello Guys, Gals, and Non-Binary Pals,

Our second summer camp session brought together over 40 trans and GNC youth for 5 days of community building, drama classes, Zumba, as well as the beloved traditional camp activates like ropes courses, swimming, kayaking and archery. Our camp theme “Free to Be” emphasized the mission of creating a gender affirming, safe space within the beautiful YMCA of Santa Monica camp site, right on the shore of Big Bear Lake. Our campers took full advantage of the proximity to the lake starting their mornings with a Polar Plunge – a 7am dip in the lake! Camp not only aimed to create a supportive environment for our youth, but to support the personal growth of each camper as leaders and advocates for themselves and their community and providing them with trans and GNC mentors.

Among our most popular programs were the elective workshops campers were able to participate in during their Camper’s Choice periods. Campers had the opportunity to engage in critical thought and conversations during these elective workshops that provided the space to discuss topics like “Know Your Rights,” in which campers learned about their rights in schools, communities, and extra-curricular activities. Our youth also explored their intersecting identities in a session called “I’m trans and…” The session helped campers reflect on how different parts of their identities interact with one another and  how those affect how they interact with the world.

Our campers were in for an extra special surprise when three M.A.C. Cosmetics Senior Artists joined us and provided seminar-style make-up lessons and makeovers. Campers had the opportunity to explore their personal style with one-on-one support from industry professionals! Many of the campers had a unique look in mind which they directed the artists in achieving. Others preferred to let the artists get creative and choose their looks. At the end of the day, camp looked more like an editorial shoot than a summer camp and our campers got to go home goodie bags full of M.A.C. products!

During their time in the lake, campers had the option to kayak, paddle board, go on a pedal boat with a friend, and most excitingly, the Hot Dog! Campers were pulled by a motorboat on a jumbo hot dog across the lake – a thrilling and challenging activity that quickly became a camp favorite! The opportunity to rotate through activities while at the lake allowed for campers to have as much fun or get as much quiet as they needed to. Many campers would choose to take a paddle board and relax in the middle of the lake while others spent the entire period rotating through the hot dog. As fun as the lake activities were they also provided an opportunity for campers to bond with one another, work as a team, and challenge themselves!

The week ended on a high note at our final campfire, where each cabin group presented a skit to the community. The campers got to share humorous insight to their individual cabin cultures and their unique sense humor. A few campers chose to perform solo acts in addition to participating in their cabin’s skit. The individual performances allowed for campers to share their powerful perspectives and voice their individuality. With a hug train, the evening came to an end and campers left the night feeling the endless support of their camp community.

Until next year!

Margot AndersonSummer Session 2 Recap!
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Summer Camp 2016 Recap

This summer’s Camp Laurel program was an absolute whirlwind of fun, new activities, and so many memories! Thanks to our amazing volunteers and donors, our campers were able to spend a week surrounded by a supportive community of their peers where they got to participate in engaging activities like swimming, challenge courses, native arts, high ropes, archery, and so much more!

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As always, the goal of Camp Laurel is to build our campers’ sense of self-esteem and self-worth by encouraging them to try new activities, work outside of their comfort zones, and develop new skill sets. In addition to many traditional camp activities, Camp Laurel introduced new and unique programming this summer focused on helping our campers develop skills that can benefit their everyday lives. Our older campers were treated to a brand new cooking program courtesy of our guest staff “Thunder” from Jameson Ranch Camp. This workshop not only helped them create culinary wonders for the entire camp community (like Nopales and handmade granola bars), but it also showed them how they can incorporate healthy eating habits using ingredients they can find in their own neighborhoods into their everyday meals.

An exciting new mountain biking program pushed campers of all ages to expand their perceived capacities and rise to the challenge of this invigorating outdoor sport. It also showed our campers a whole new way to explore the beauty of nature and get a killer workout to boot! Campers were further encouraged to expand their love of nature through more new outdoor activities such as geocaching, and trenting (another Jameson Ranch Camp guest program). Geocaching introduced many campers to the different ways they can navigate through nature and trenting gave a whole new meaning to outdoor adventures!

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This summer we also added in some very special elements for our teen campers, including an overnight campout adventure, complete with a long hiking in, tent camping, and stories around the campfire! The teens were encouraged to work as a team to make the program a success, as together they had to hike up all their supplies, build their campsite, and work as a community throughout the evening. In addition to spending a fun evening under the stars, the teen overnight campout also gave this group a chance to bond with other youth encountering the same stigma and challenges as themselves, and helped lay the foundation for a positive peer support system that they can turn to both inside of camp and throughout the year.

The stories they brought back, memories they made, and teamwork they developed just goes to show that s’mores and sleeping under the stars is the perfect way to end the summer!

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Although a lot of new programs were added this summer, Camp Laurel still kept our favorite traditions going! Back by popular demand, our campers were treated to Camp Laurel’s favorite evening program- the Great Noodie Bird Hunt! The counselor team also put on one of the best all-camp dances in recent memory, complete with photo booth, costumes, and all the best dance tunes that DJ Kidney Bean could find!

Whether it was through new activities or class camp favorites, campers of all ages were given the unique opportuntiy to try new experiences, rise beyond their perceived capacities, and develop new life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and communication through the programs presented at Camp Laurel.

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Even with all the fun activities that camp offers, we’ve heard time and again from youth that have graduated our programs that Camp Laurel has provided them with so much more than just a fun time. Camp Laurel is a place where they learn to believe in themselves, where they are taught to work with their peers towards common objectives, and where they get to expand their abilities. Its a safe place they can return to year after year where they are not judged for what they’re dealing with, but supported for who they are.

This summer we saw yet another group of amazing young adults embrace these ideals through Camp Laurel’s Counselor-In-Training program. This leadership development program helped these campers use the skills they’ve learned at Camp Laurel to support other youth in the program by taking on leadership roles and responsibilities. Over the course of camp, the teens in this program developed crucial life skills (active listening, communication, problem solving, etc) through leadership workshops and hands-on experience leading programs and supporting the younger campers. This group set the bar even higher for CITs following in their footsteps, with the incredible amount of care, creativity, and great leadership potential they showed every day of the program! What an amazing team!

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This summer was without a doubt one of the most fun Camp Laurel programs in recent memory and makes us even more excited to get back to camp with our Family Camp program early next year! We can’t wait to see you all there!!!

Margot AndersonSummer Camp 2016 Recap
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Camp Laurel changed my life

My name is Grissel Granados and I was a camper with Camp Laurel from the age of 7 to about 17, actually I was there at the very first Camp Laurel ever! Camp Laurel was a family tradition as well, once my little sister was old enough she went to Summer Camp every year with me; and in the winter my mom, my sister, and I all went to Camp Laurel’s Family Camp.
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As a person who was born with HIV, Camp Laurel was instrumental to my growing up without stigma and allowing me to just be a kid. While my family made me feel loved and told me I could do whatever I set my mind to, regardless of my HIV status, Camp Laurel was a place where I could actually see it for myself. At camp I could push myself to try new things that were beyond my imagination (particularly growing up as a poor person of color), such as horseback riding, or kayaking…it is where I learned how to swim, and where I challenged my fear of heights with the support of my camp friends and counselors.
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Camp Laurel reminded me that I wasn’t alone…

I felt the support of my camp family through the hard times I faced outside of camp as well. When I was 10 I was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo chemo therapy. I remember one camp counselor shaved his head in solidarity when I had to cut off my hair. I also remember having camp friends visit me in the hospital. Camp Laurel reminded me that I wasn’t alone and it was my safe haven in between chemo sessions.
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My friendships with the kids I met through The Laurel Foundation spanned beyond the few days a year we got to spend together. We kept in touch through out the year writing letters to each other. The importance of these friendships  proved to be much more valuable as we grew up and started to face the real world as teens and young adults growing up with HIV..After camp, I went off to UC Santa Barbara for college and proceeded to become a social worker in the HIV field working with Adolescents and Young Adults who are living with or at-risk for acquiring HIV. Despite my professional experience in the field of HIV/AIDS, I found that without the friends I met through Camp Laurel in my life, I started to feel extremely isolated. I started to think I was the only person born with HIV, even though intellectually I knew I wasn’t.

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I took it upon myself to re-connect with the community I lost through the process of creating a documentary on the first generation of people born with HIV in the 80s and 90s. I interviewed 4 young adults, one of them being my best friend from Camp Laurel, Allie. There were many commonalities in our story, but the most striking was this sense of isolation. From those who did not get the opportunity to go to camp, there was a almost sense of injustice and envy that they missed out on such a critical source of support that only a few of us had.

I’ve done about a dozen screenings a cross the country since September of last year when I premiered the film and the question that comes up 100% of the time is about camp, because Allie mentions how important it was for her. This clip is only about 30 seconds and yet every single time it is something that touches audiences. People want to know where there are camps, how they can connect kids they know to camp, how they can support The Laurel Foundation’s mission. At every screening I get asked how we recreate something like this for those of us who are in our late 20s and early 30s now, and still very much in need of the experiences that The Laurel Foundation provides.

I am the person I am today because I went to Camp Laurel

.As a 29 year old woman today I continue to reap the benefits of having gone to Camp Laurel during my childhood. I am in touch with camp friends through Facebook, I meet up with them for lunch from time to time. I see pictures of their weddings and their kids and I feel re-connected to my own community… I continue to see examples of how we can do anything we set our minds to despite our HIV status. Every few years I pull out my box of Camp Laurel mementos and reminisce. As I try new experiences now, I always have some example of how I have tried something similar before at camp to give me courage and push my boundaries. I am the person I am today and I continue to try new things because I went to Camp Laurel.

 

Grissel

– Grissel Granados

Margot AndersonCamp Laurel changed my life
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Summer Camp 2016

That’s right, it’s almost our favorite time of year again – time for Summer Camp!!!
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Camp Laurel’s Summer Camp is a unique program that focuses on traditional outdoor education programming while catering to the fragile physical and mental health of children and youth living with HIV/AIDS. This program exposes our low-income at-risk campers to experiences they would otherwise never encounter, such as working with farm animals, camping outdoors, and collaboratively living with groups of their peers. Our carefully designed Summer Camp also helps increase each child’s self-esteem by challenging their perceived capabilities and empowering them through the development of important life skills (communication, team work, resiliency, creativity, etc).
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This year we’re excited to be returning to the fabulous Jameson Ranch Camp to offer our campers uniquely designed an outdoor education Summer Camp program. That means the summer will be filled with even more of the amazing programs including horseback riding, rock climbing (on real rocks!), mountain biking, and so much more!
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Of course, even more than the activities and campsite, what makes our camps truly magical is our awesome crew of camp counselors who bring the program to life. So help us make this summer one to remember for the kids by joining the Summer Camp team today! For more information about what it means to be a volunteer with The Laurel Foundation, please visit our volunteer page or email our Director of Volunteers, Lauren Franklin.
Margot AndersonSummer Camp 2016
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Spring Family Camp


We are excited to announce that our 2016 Family Camp will be occurring May 6 – 8 (Friday – Sunday).  We have heard time and time again that the parents want a warmer camp (hence the date change) and a more “retreat-like” setting. Well … WE HEARD YOU! This Spring our Family Camp will be at a BRAND NEW SITE! Thats right, we will be hosting our first ever Family Camp program at the gorgeous Camp Stevens, located in the mountains of San Diego County.

We are incredibly excited for this brand new venture and know that you will be too. Our CEO, Margot  Anderson, explored the facilities of Camp Stevens late last year and took a ton of pictures, specifically to share with you. So prepare to get excited about this new site through a quick picture tour. Lets get going!

 

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One of the things that drew us to Camp Stevens immediately was its beautiful grounds and comfortable facilities.

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This beautiful retreat-like camp will be more comfortable for our parents.  The facilities will give the parents a more relaxed setting, one that will help facilitate the formation of important support groups.

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The dining room is not only AWESOME, but the food is too!  Organic farming on site will teach both the children and parents how the importance of good food choices can be healthy and taste GREAT!


We also fell in love with the cozy meeting rooms and indoor programming space!  The parents now can sit by a fire, sip on tea and coffee, and munch on popcorn while participating in important discussions facilitated by our volunteer social workers.

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The comfortable cabins didn’t hurt either!

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Plus, how neat would sleeping in a fully equipped yurt be?!

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We saw at Jameson Ranch Camp this summer how great organic, homegrown food can taste while you’re up at camp. Camp Stevens, as mentioned, grows a lot of the food we will be eating on site, and additionally offers cooking classes! Now we can all learn how to cook healthy food that tastes GREAT.

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Just like summer camp … we will pick fresh eggs for breakfast!

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Best part of all (in our opinion) is that Camp Stevens offers all these amazing amenities and STILL has all the fun camp activities that we know and love here at Camp Laurel.

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We could not be more delighted with this campsite and wish that we were at camp already so we can experience it all in person! Spring Family Camp is definitely going to be a program to remember – we hope to see you all there! So save the date and please join us May 6 – 8 for Spring Family Camp 2016!


Check out our video of Spring Camp and other 2016 programs!

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Margot AndersonSpring Family Camp
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2016 Camp Laurel News!

As you have probably already noticed, this has been a big year of growth and change for The Laurel Foundation. Our goal as an organization for 2016 is to take in the feedback we’ve heard from our families, Board of Directors and volunteers to improve our programs and make them even more impactful for the children we serve. Through post-camp surveys, informal conversations, and official focus groups, we have heard a LOT of amazing feedback thats given us great insight into areas that we can grow and improve for years to come. We can’t thank you enough for the insights you’ve all shared with us- its only thanks to your feedback that we can continue to improve as an organization!

So whats in store for The Laurel Foundation in 2016?
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2016 Family Camp

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We’re going to be kicking this year off with a big shift in our Family Camp programming. For the past couple of years, the biggest feedback we’ve received by our families and volunteers working with our adult campers, is that Camp Laurel really challenges our parents to step outside of their comfort zones through both the programming,  accommodations and weather. While we believe strongly in providing opportunities for our campers, both adults and children, to expand self-perceived capacities,  we feel that providing a space that can better accommodate our adult campers physical needs would allow them and the children to be more at ease and provide a more empowering environment overall.

With that feedback in mind, we will be shifting our Family Camp program to the spring and will be using a brand new site that provides a more retreat-like atmosphere for our adult campers, while still providing the camp programming we all know and love! The exact dates for Family Camp are in the process of being confirmed, but we know that it will fall in late April or mid May. Keep your eyes peeled for pictures of our brand new (gorgeous) campsite and a video site tour in mid-December.


Day Events

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Building a year-round community within the families we serve continues to be one of our main goals. To better support this goal, we plan on offering more day programs for the children and youth living in both the Los Angeles and San Diego areas in between our Camp Laurel programs.

This past year we were able to partner with AIDS Healthcare Foundation to provide an arts empowerment event for the girls aged 10-14.  Additionally this summer we provided our families with paddle boarding lessons at our Beach Day event and partnered with Positive Adventures for a day of family games and team building. We heard great things from our families about the effect of these one-day programs and they have made it clear that they want to see more of the same going forward.    

In 2016 we aim to expand our day events and continue to offer our families a chance to reconnect and grow together throughout the year. Be on the lookout for awesome events in your area!


CIT Retreat

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We love our CITs! The CIT program is without a doubt one of the most impactful leadership development opportunities we offer at The Laurel Foundation, and we want to help build it up even further! This year we plan on giving our new and returning CITs a special weekend retreat where they can come together as a unit and develop their leadership, communication, conflict resolution, and team building skills before working directly with the youth at Summer Camp as Counselors in Training.

More details about this weekend retreat are forthcoming. We could not be more excited for this one!


Summer Camp

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Our families can’t stop talking about how much our campers enjoyed Summer Camp this year! All the new activities- horseback riding, zip line, mountain boarding, and rocking climbing just to name a few- made for an incredibly fun and empowering program for the kids. Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received, we plan on continuing the outdoor education focused Summer Camp program we kicked off this past year in conjunction with Jameson Ranch Camp.

With one camp at this new site under our belt, we have a clear idea of which areas we can improve upon, build up, and make even more special the next time around! A major thanks to all our Summer Camp counselors who gave us fantastic suggestions on how we can take this camp to the next level! Summer Camp dates will be in August.


With all these programs in store, 2016 is definitely going to be a year to remember! On top of the programs listed above, we will of course be having all the traditional events The Laurel Foundation hosts each year – Holiday Party, Golf Tournament, and Wine Tasting Benefit. There’s a possibility of even MORE events and programs getting tacked onto our 2016 calendar as well, so give us YOUR feedback on what you would like to see happen with The Laurel Foundation this next year!

Please contact us anytime at (626) 683-0800 or LFranklin@Laurel-Foundation.org if you have any questions or comments about our upcoming 2016 programs.

Margot Anderson2016 Camp Laurel News!
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Summer Camp 2015

Summer Camp 2015 – This summer, The Laurel Foundation ventured to a new location to host its Summer Camp.  Hosted at Jameson Ranch Camp, just outside the Sequoia National Park, this 500 acre camp site was just what our campers wanted!  Like never before, the children were introduced to so many new activities, such as mountain boarding, horseback riding, sailing, kayaking, zip lining, rock climbing and more.  The kids truly had the time of their life!

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This camp program offered not only brand new activities, but offered program time in which the kids could work towards achieving personal goals and enhancing their skill sets.  The kids got to sleep under the starts in open cabins, and work on a farm tending the small animals, collecting eggs in the morning for breakfast and milking a cow.  They learned how important it is to work together as a team to build a community.

When camp ended, all the kids wanted to stay!  The magical world we had created will always be remembered and we look forward to our next summer Camp Laurel at Jameson Ranch Camp!

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Margot AndersonSummer Camp 2015
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Message from a Former Camper

 Hi Everyone my name is “Spike” which is my camp name or Erik in the real world.

I have been fortunate enough to be apart of Camp Laurel and The Laurel Foundation. It has changed my life.

My sister was diagnosis with AIDS and passed when I was 10 years old, She had a son Anthony who was 3 when she passed.

Living life in the real world was hard, people were scared of us. At that time people where prejudice, crude, and scared.

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It was like I had to be secretive about my sister having AIDS and then secret about her passing, just to fit in. My family was devastated we all were finding ways to cope with life and it was hard.

My mom, went on to educated women about HIV/AIDS and got connected with organizations to learn more about the virus, and she found The Laurel Foundation.

Thank God She did. Home life was a bit of a mess: my parents were divorcing, my grandfather passed away, and I was giving in to peer pressure. I was a very rebellious child at the age of 13. I went to my first camp and I will never forget it.

paddles blogIt was a Fall Camp Laurel session and it was a trip to Space Camp in Northern California. I had never really been outside of Los Angeles so I was scared to meet all these new people. I came to realize that it was so much fun and then something happened. I got into some serious trouble. I was very rebellious and was told I would be sent home. Scared I pleaded that I would change my behavior. I have never been in a place where I was so accepted, free from society and free from the prejudices of HIV/AIDS. I didn’t want to go home. Margot Anderson (the Founder), bless her heart, saw something in me and gave me a second chance. Needless to say I was good from then on. I even received the Apollo award, at a later camp program, for being such a great role model for other campers. Me a role model, yes! From that one moment at my first camp my life was forever changed. I found a family that understood me, an extension of who I am.

I loved camp so much that when I started to grow up and it was time for me to move on … I just couldn’t! I decided to become a camp counselor.

Being the first or one of the first people to go from camper to counselor was an amazing experience. It gave me huge respect for the counselors I had as a child and all counselors. It was long hours, but so worth it. Plus, I had the energy for it. I loved my cabin kids and I saw myself in them at their age. Now I was able to give back to them, what The Laurel Foundation had given to me so graciously. It was the best time I had ever had.

DSC_8415v2But it didn’t stop there! So remember how I said my mom was a bit of a crusader well it’s true my mom suggested we create an AIDS Ride for The Laurel Foundation.

The ride was suggested to The Laurel Foundation by my mom and with the help of MANY, it was created. It was FANTASTIC and continues today as an annual fundraiser for The Laurel Foundation! My mom rode every year up until she couldn’t and then I jumped in and rode. My first bike was a mountain bike, heavy and rough. Every year after that first ride I would get better things … like a bike!

It is my highlight of my year to raise money and give back to The Laurel Foundation. Riding for the kids is an amazing experience.

The Laurel Foundation has change my life and given me a sense of self, honesty, fun, and family.

I am fortunate to have The Laurel Foundation in my life because if they weren’t, my life would be VERY DIFFERENT.

Thank you Margot for that second chance.

Thank you Laurel Foundation.

Love
SPIKE
aka Erik

ta9mrMessage from a Former Camper
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Winter Family Camp – A Parent Speaks Out

To The Laurel Foundation,

Mario and I would like to thank you for working with us on getting all that was necessary for us to attend Camp Laurel’s Winter session. We loved it! Mario is looking forward to attending summer camp this year. We met some fantastic people & will keep in touch with each other.

Please thank the many wonderful people who work with you to make these camps available to kids & families that would not be able to spend time in the mountains. You all have planted seeds in us that will continue to grow as the the years go by.

Again, with much appreciation,

Rosalinda Lozano and Mario Avila

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ta9mrWinter Family Camp – A Parent Speaks Out
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