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updated: 7/26/2013 4:44 PM

Palatine Opportunity Center wraps up camps for underserved kids

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Despite funding cuts that have been a blow to so many not-for-profit organizations, the Palatine Opportunity Center on Friday wrapped up another memorable summer camp for underserved children in the area.

About 120 kids and teens took part in the annual Northeast Palatine Summer Camp, which began more than 10 years ago.

"When everybody talks about their summer vacations, that can be isolating for some kids who don't have these fun experiences," Palatine Opportunity Center Executive Director Kathy Millin said. "We try to provide a wonderful camping experience to kids who wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise."

Although a more modest budget forced organizers to scale back the kids camp from three weeks to two, they were able to add a weeklong teen camp for the first time.

About 15 teens signed up and took part in an outing to Navy Pier and a volunteer trip to the Feed My Starving Children facility, which packs and delivers meals specifically formulated for malnourished children in nearly 70 countries.

The kids camp took field trips to a water park, Foster Beach and Brookfield Zoo. Friday's wet weather forced camp Director Cristina Lara to cancel the outdoor barbecue and talent show and take the group bowling.

Millin said the summer camp is a truly collaborative effort. In addition to the Palatine Opportunity Center, representatives with the Palatine Park District, Palatine Township Elementary District 15, Palatine Township, the Palatine Police Department, Salt Creek Park District and Buehler YMCA sat on the camp committee and contributed in some way.

"It can be a challenge to come up with inexpensive things to do for that large a group, so we need all the help and ideas we can get," Millin said.

She also credited local businesses such as Walgreens, which sent 50 volunteers to help with the camp's outing to the Twin Lakes Recreation Area.

Millin said organizers tried to make the camp healthier this year. Northwest Community Healthcare, District 15 and Buehler provided nutritious breakfast and snacks, while many activities emphasized exercise.

"This is a healthy and safe experience for these kids," Millin said. "Many say it's the best thing they do all summer, so we hope it goes on forever."

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