Aerospace workers spruce up The Painted Turtle camp

Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds

Happy campers – Employees from Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, TSC, UTC Aerospace, Virgin Galactic and Woodward volunteered to help spruce up The Painted Turtle camp, right in time for the next session. The year-round camp is for children with serious and life threatening diseases.

Armed with hoes, rakes, elbow grease and a whole lot of heart, eight aerospace companies volunteered at The Painted Turtle camp to prepare for the next group of happy campers.

Located in Lake Hughes, The Painted Turtle’s mission statement reads: “To reach beyond illness, to inspire children with life-threatening diseases to become their greater selves. It is our mission to provide a year-round, life-changing environment for these children and their families – one that allows children to participate in an authentic camp experience by supporting their medical needs and offers their families care, education, and respite.”

Eliot Dreiband, 26, is a full time employee with The Painted Turtle and came to camp in 2004 as a Crohn’s Disease patient. “It was life changing for me. What the camp did for me, I wanted to do for others,” said Dreiband, who studied Human Development and spent every summer after college at the camp before she joined the staff. “It is the best thing I could have done with my life.”

Participating volunteers represented Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, TSC (The Spaceship Company), UTC Aerospace, Virgin Galactic and Woodward.

Taylor McKay said he came seven years ago when he was 14 to help out and has been coming ever since. “It makes a big impact on so many kids, it’s just a great thing to be a part of.” McKay works as R&D engineer for UTC Aerospace.

Volunteers signed up to repair orchard beds, paint banners, clean boats, wash golf carts, pull weeds, prepare mailing information and stuff turtle pillows — more than 170 of them.

“Aerospace workers are some of the best that we have,” Jenna Fradkin, corporate relations manager briefed staff workers before the volunteers arrived. “They seem to know what to do and get the job done quickly.” Volunteers were treated to a continental breakfast before they began and to homemade pizza and salad when they finished by noon. “What you all did in a few hours would have taken us weeks to accomplish — we are so thankful for you,” said Fradkin.

First time volunteer, Tony Borgia, director at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, claims he is now a window cleaning expert and knows every kind of window the camp has. “Double pane, single, you name it, I can clean it perfectly!” Borgia said he knew of the camp but thought it was only for disabled kids. “When you look at all the names on the banners and you see what type of disease these kids have, it makes you think of the things we take for granted.”

Borgia made several new friends from various companies while washing windows and even took a basketball shot on the original Los Angeles Lakers floor in the gym. “This is a very special place, you can just feel it.” Borgia’s wife, Cyndi, who is a school teacher, also volunteered and they both hope to volunteer someday while camp is in session.