Happy Trails Youth Receive School Backpacks

Past American Legion Auxiliary President Joanna Curtis and junior auxiliary member Violet Curtis shop for back-to-school supplies for foster children.

“If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand up for much,” said Marian Wright Edelman, who has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans and founded the Children’s Defense Fund.

The Ronald Reagan Post 283 Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion donated $900 to put together 48 backpacks for foster children that are helped by the Palisades-founded Happy Trails for Kids organization.

This is about the fifth year the Legion family has come together to support kids. When the project was brought before the Auxiliary in the summer, members unanimously voted to donate money for school supplies.

Past President Joanna Curtis, a Palisades resident and elementary school teacher at Inglewood, said, “Students are often nervous on the first day of school, so having new backpacks and supplies gives them more confidence as they start the new school year. This is especially important this year since many students have not been on campus for almost 18 months.”

The new backpacks contained pencils, erasers, glue, scissors, pencil sharpeners, folders, composition books, notebooks, paper, pencil boxes, crayons, colored pencils, markers and rulers.

Auxiliary members Curtis and Violet Walquist and junior member Violet Curtis assembled the backpacks. Once they were filled, SAL member Hank Elder delivered them to the students.

Curtis received an August 18 email back from September Sucher, program director for Happy Trails, who wrote: “The backpacks with all the supplies were just incredible. Thank you again for your generosity and support! You are so kind to us, and we really appreciate you.”

Happy Trails for Kids is a nonprofit started when Pepper Edmiston could not find a sleepaway camp for her son, David Abrams, who survived cancer as a two-year-old but was left with intellectual disabilities and was also epileptic.

In 1982, she started Camp Good Times with help from David’s grandparents, Max and Janet Salter. For 13 years, Happy Trails hosted families who were raising seriously ill or incapacitated boys and girls — either their youngsters by birth or through foster care.

Happy Trails celebrated children with challenges and the families who loved them. All of David’s siblings came to camp: his brothers Jon, Matt, Ben, Will and Charlie and his sister Susan.

Susan became an attorney who represented children in foster care. In 2009, when she took over as president of Happy Trails, Susan focused the mission of the program on boys and girls in foster care with and without disabilities.

In February 2009, David passed away from an aggressive seizure.  Although David suffered from many limitations, his capacity for joy was limitless and his love for his family and for Happy Trails was enormous.

The mission at Happy Trails for Kids continues. “Our campers are connected by the bond of foster care – where often the joys of childhood have been stripped away,” their website states.

Happy Trails notes that regardless of how many foster homes or changing circumstances these kids have been through, there are monthly reunion events and a dedicated team of counselors (most of whom have had personal experience in foster care) provide a circle of support.

The Salters, Abrams and Edmiston families continue to support Happy Trails for Kids, both to honor the memory of their beloved David and in recognition of the value camp holds for every child in need.

Every December, Vittorio’s co-owner Vanessa Pellegrini hosts a luncheon and a toy drive for Happy Trails foster children.

Visit: happytrailsforkids.org.


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