Easy as pie: Fundraiser sends kids to camp

By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features editor
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People who smell something delicious coming from Skyridge Elementary School this week are encouraged to stop by – that’s the aroma of more than 100 freshly baked pies for sale as part of the inaugural Pie Fest. The idea for the Pie Fest was born when students and faculty were brainstorming fundraisers for the fifth-grade class’ annual trip to Camp Augusta in Nevada City. Teacher John Garcia said his fifth-graders had been learning about pie charts, and the idea evolved from there. Parents, students and staff have baked an array of pies, from fruit-filled treats to chocolate- and cream-filled delicacies. Whole pies will be sold to adults only during the Pie Fest, but slices will be sold first-come, first-served Saturday, Oct. 29, during the Skyridge Carnival. This is the 14th year Garcia will accompany the fifth-graders to Camp Augusta, and increasingly hard times are making it more difficult each year for families to pay the $260-per-student fee. If all the fifth-graders attend, Garcia said, that adds up to more than $20,000. The goal of the Pie Fest, he said, is to send each of the nearly 100 students to the Lake Vera camp. “It’s not your typical summer camp,” he said. According to, the camp’s mission is “to provide children a safe, fun-filled experience that will serve as a catalyst for personal growth and an appreciation of the outdoors” by providing a supportive environment geared toward each child’s individual needs. Kids decide what activities they’d like to do, and their counselors – who hail from all over the world – facilitate the action with safety and fun in mind. Along with typical camp activities like archery, arts and crafts, ropes courses and canoeing, Camp Augusta kids are offered the chance to learn about and practice ancient weaponry, participate in an oatmeal fight, build a slingshot to fling themselves into the lake, spin fire, have a mud fight in chocolate sauce and whatever else they might dream up that can be done safely. “A few years ago they decided to put wheels on a canoe,” said Debbie Lee, of Auburn, who has taken her children to camp for several years. “They called it a canoggan, and now they have canoggan races.” Lee, a Sacramento paramedic, serves as a nurse at Camp Augusta when she is there for Family Camp, a shortened version of summer camp similar to the four-day experience the Skyridge kids have. Her daughter Amanda Mart, 10, is the only Skyridge fifth-grader this year who has been to camp before. “I get to show all my friends everything that you get to do there,” Amanda said. “I’m going to have a lot of fun introducing them to all the really nice and cool people that they get to share all that time with.” While she said it’s impossible to pick a favorite camp memory, Amanda said one at the top of her list is from her very first day, when counselors flooded the campfire pits, creating a huge mud puddle the kids could jump over – or into – if they wanted. “It’s challenge by choice,” Lee said. “The kids aren’t pushed to do anything … they are encouraged in a way that really empowers them. It’s not like, ‘Do it and you’ll get an ice cream.’ It’s more like, ‘Try if you feel comfortable trying, and try because of the good feeling that it’s going to give you.’” The fifth-graders spend all school year raising money for camp and other field trips, including running a student store when kids can buy school supplies. Garcia said that although it’s getting harder and harder to raise money, Skyridge staff will continue working toward giving kids the Camp Augusta experience. “To just see kids who are maybe closed off and not willing to take chances – all of a sudden you see a different kid at camp.”