Nearly a year ago, Leoni Meadows was front and center of the Caldor wildfire. It burnt several buildings and key areas, including thousands of trees surrounding the camp. The cleanup and rebuild has been never-ending in the months leading up to this summer’s camp schedule.
Craig Heinrich, camp director, looks back on a camp season once in jeopardy with an air of incredulity. “We had a phenomenal summer,” he said. “Regardless of the intermittent problems like continually finding water pipes that the fire damaged, including sewer backups at times, and incredible pressure of cleanup and construction, we may have seen the best staff, volunteers, and campers ever!”
As you look out from the lodge, the wall of Douglas firs, several feet in diameter and hundreds of years old, are gone. Left in their place is a grayish picket fence of ghostly survivors.
Yet, beauty has sprung up in ferns and undergrowth that is quickly winning the war on gray ash and red soil. Heinrich pointed out, “God brought the spring and summer, reminding us He can make all things new.”
According to Heinrich, “Cowboy Camp was the most affected by the fire as it ripped through our barn, wagons, stables, and trails. It was the one camp that almost didn’t happen!”
And how true that was! If not for a group of third-graders at Sacramento Academy and a brilliant plan, cowboy camp could have been scrubbed. Sacramento Academy third-grade teacher Janine Harrington, along with her husband and students, approached both the Sacramento Woodside and Carmichael churches to ask them to financially support the rebuild of Cowboy Camp.
As a longtime customer, Harrington also approached Craig and DeeDee Lyman, the owners of Douglas Feed, for support. Little did she know that Craig had attended Leoni Meadows when he was a kid. The Lymans agreed to not only replace the tack items at cost but to also start a “Round Up” campaign with their customers! All told, the third-grade class presented Heinrich and the camp with a check for over $23,000 and helped pick products from
At camp, Darci Miller, a “cowgirl” from Sonora and first-time camper, was thrilled with living in the temporary canvas bivouac, harkening back to visions of the Wild West. She said, “I know we couldn’t make the long trail rides due to the burnt trees and blocked trails, but being part of the camper rodeo was the best part of the week!
By Ken Miller and Laurie Trujillo