Critter Camp (2021-2022, 2019-2020, 2018-2019, 2016-2017, 2015-2016, 2014-2015, 2013-2014)
Animal Samaritans, the Coachella Valley’s largest most-comprehensive animal welfare organization, is a 501 (c) non-profit organization founded in 1978 and dedicated to improving the lives of animals and people. In addition to providing quality, low-cost veterinary care to struggling pet owners, free pet therapy, animal rescuing, sheltering and adoptions, Animal Samaritans has been educating youngsters about responsible pet ownership, pet safety, the importance of spaying and neutering our pets, and respect for all living creatures. During the school year, we instruct more than 20,000 school children, and during the summer we provide free-of-charge Critter Camps for children ages 7 through 11 in Desert Hot Springs Recreation Center, Mecca Family & Farmworker’s Service Center and Mountain View Estates in Thermal. Held during the summer school break, Critter Camp is a fun and informative day camp which provides children with hands on experience with animals, animal-related activities, and animal-related arts & crafts.
During these camps, we teach children to respect all living creatures through educational slide shows, animal themed arts and crafts, games, and visits from live animals. We provide our children from Mecca and Thermal free lunches and snacks. We use prizes to motivate our campers to participate in all activities, and even give them an opportunity to win a backpack full of school supplies. All campers receive a camp shirt and a camp bag with goodies.
Critter Camp activities include:
• Live Animal Presentations: We believe that children need to interact with different animals to understand them and respect them. Our certified therapy dogs under our Animal Companion Therapy program help children practice kindness hands-on by petting and brushing them. Boogie Shoes, a rescued dog with cerebellar hypoplasia, teaches our campers the importance of kindness and compassion as well as pet responsibility. This summer, due to the pandemic and its limitations, we are not having a Reptile Show as we have had previous years.
• Arts & Crafts: Our camp art is always related to an animal the children will meet during camp or has learned about it through our educational PowerPoint presentation. Our campers show their love for animals through their artwork and cherish it as if it were the actual animal. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment when they see their art project completed. This year’s main arts & crafts projects are Favorite Animal Kite Painting and putting together a Scarlet Macaw to bring awareness about the importance of saving the Amazon Rainforest.
• Animal-Themed Games: Camp is not camp without fun games. Every summer we play our loved Hot Potato game but with a stuffed animal. Our campers pretend the stuffed animal is a real guinea pig. Although our campers want to go fast to win, they must be gentle when giving the pet to the next person. This game helps our campers practice patience and how to be gentle with pets. Any mishandling of the stuffed animal during the game will disqualify the camper. If time permits, we also play Animal Charades. This game has our campers act out an animal and helps them build up their teamwork skills.
• Camp Lesson: Each summer we offer one to two 30-minute PowerPoint presentations regarding proper pet care, pet safely and how to be kind to animal. The main lesson varies each year. This summer we are having our Future Vet activity, focusing on vet services. Our campers will become veterinarians by utilizing a real stethoscope and an otoscope to examine their patient, a stuffed animal. Our future vets will fill out an exam sheet like a real veterinarian does. This activity is not only fun, but it is career oriented to inspire our campers to become doctors.
As much as we educate adults, it is children who will make a difference in the future. It is our goal to teach them pet responsibility and help them practice kindness in order to see the positive change we want to see. Animal Samaritans believes that in order to learn a skill, you must practice the skill. “We are what we repeatedly do.” – Aristotle