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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Teen camp wants bigger water tank, city hookup

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

HAWAI'I KAI — The latest improvement at Winners' Camp — a 250,000 gallon water tank— is in the planning and funding stages, and like most everything else at the campsite on the top of Kamehame Ridge, it depends on the generosity of benefactors.

Winners' Camp is a seven-day, confidence-building program for teenagers. The camp, at the site of what used to be the old Army Nike Missile Camp, settled atop the hill five years ago, after moving from place to place for 15 years.

More than 10,000 teenagers have gone through the program since it began. Many are referred to the camp by school counselors, teachers and friends who have been in the program. They test themselves with an obstacle course and other physical, team-building challenges.

The camp gets its water from an old water tank that has a 15,000-gallon capacity and must be refilled from trucks because it is not connected to city water service. One filled tank is enough to supply campers for a week, said Delorese Gregoire, founding director of Winners' Camp.

The 40 campers and 20 staffers are told to be sparing with toilet flushes. Showers are limited to one per person per day. Bottled water is provided for drinking.

"We are forced to teach water conservation, which we'll continue to do," Gregoire said. "But the new water tank will enable us to be more user friendly.

"It's not catastrophic, but given the kind of work we do up here it's a hardship for the teenagers. We'd rather not restrict showers given the number of challenges the kids face during their experiential learning through the ropes course."

The Hawai'i Kai Neighborhood Board has voted to support the camp's plans to increase its water supply and connect to the city service. Local developer Mike Klein, a grant writer with the Hawai'i Intergenerational Community Development Association, has stepped forward to shepherd the project through the city approval process and to help attain funding, Gregoire said.

The first step was coming to the community to gauge its support for the water project that includes fire hydrants along the road to the camp and the new water tank, a $1.5 million project.

The city must approve the water tank expansion and connection to city water pipes once it receives an application.

Nearby residents have not voiced any concerns about the camp, said Roger Davis, a member of the Kamehame Ridge Estates Community Association.

"The camp is way back, a mile or so from the existing houses," Davis said. "No one has ever said anything to me."

Gregoire says that's because the camp works at being a good neighbor. Much of the camp has been restored from the abandoned military buildings — that once were nearly falling down in a field littered with abandoned appliances and car parts — into freshly painted, carpeted dormitories, a kitchen, mess hall and activity rooms. Most of it was done with volunteer labor.

"The help goes on and on," Gregoire said. "The water tank and hookup to the city water would make us a fully functioning camp and make us able to be more self-sufficient."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.