Canyon Lake resident Kathy Blakemore, a science teacher at Elsinore Middle School, has been taking students to the Catalina Island Marine Institute for 28 years and recently returned from this year’s trip. “It’s still such a blast after all these years,” she says.
This year, Kathy was blessed in a special way by the generosity of several Canyon Lakers who helped make a way for some of her students to get to the week-long camp.
Operated by parent company Guided Discoveries, CIMI has three campuses on Catalina Island. The one EMS visits is at Toyon Bay, north of Avalon (no tourists allowed). CIMI provides marine science programs for schools during the year and a more in-depth “camp” experience during the summer months, with sailing, scuba diving, underwater photography, etc.
“Their instructors are enthusiastic college graduates who have a passion for sharing their love of the ocean with students from all over the West,” Kathy explains.
In the past, Kathy took the Science Club to CIMI for three days; now students stay for five days to experience more of what the program has to offer. On this trip they snorkeled four times, including the ever-popular night dive to experience bioluminescence. Students also kayaked, explored tidepools, hiked and went rock-climbing.
They took mini-classes in the camp’s labs to learn about plankton, fish, algae and sharks, and even dissected squid. Through various activities, they also learned about island conservation and native wildlife. “We were all pleasantly exhausted by the end of the week!” says Kathy.
But all this comes at a cost. Kathy says, “This year, more families than normal had difficulty coming up with the money for the trip. I remembered friends saying that they would be interested in helping to fund a kid’s camp experience, so I decided to write a post on my Facebook page. Then, my friend Donna Ritchie asked to share my post on the Canyon Lake Community page and the donations began rolling in! I cried then, and still become emotional when I think about the generosity of my neighbors and friends.”
Kathy says she received sizeable donations from a few generous individuals and clubs. The Home Owners Club sponsored a student and the Canyon Lake Car Club sponsored four students! Car Club members Chuck and Tracy Casey were among those who wrote out a check, remembering the camp fondly after once being a chaperone when their daughter attended.
Kathy also received a large donation from one of her former students who went with her on her first CIMI trip years ago. “She said the trip had such an impact on her, that she wanted to share that opportunity with another kid,” says Kathy. “The donations took care of all the families that needed assistance, and I am beyond grateful!”