Holiday Spirit

ore than a thousand Bay Area children and teens attend camp at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills each summer, a tradition that dates back around 75 yea. Photo courtesy Hidden Villa.

Posted December 20, 2019

A summer camp where time-honored traditions meet fresh ideas
Hidden Villa offers youth a place to commune with nature — and each other

by Karla Kane

When Beatrice Piceno, 17, was planning her summer, she was immediately attracted to Hidden Villa's Leaders in Training program because she knew it would give her the opportunity to find out if working with kids is truly one of her passions.

"I came out of Hidden Villa saying, 'I really do want to do this,' most definitely," said Piceno, who is interested in pursuing a career in teaching or social work.

Leaders in Training provides youth entering grades 11 and 12 multi-week residential programs on the Los Altos Hills farm and wilderness preserve, with an emphasis on leadership and communication skills, conflict resolution and more (plus plenty of time for fun and outdoor experiences in the farm, gardens and woods). Once campers complete Leaders in Training, they're eligible to join Counselors in Training the following year, through which they gain more on-the-job experience caring for younger campers and finish up their summer with two weeks as paid counselors.

While she originally imagined herself working with teens, thanks to her time at Hidden Villa, Piceno is now considering a career working with young children. She recalled shadowing counselors and meeting one of the youngest campers on their first day, a shy girl in tears over leaving her mother and being separated from her older brother. Piceno took the girl by the hand and under her wing. By the end of camp, "that girl was friends with everyone," she laughed.

Piceno saw something of herself in that child.

"Going into Hidden Villa, I was extremely shy. I hated anything new, or anything changing," she said. She pointed to a particular moment at camp, looking at herself in the mirror, when she realized the impact the program had on her personally.

"I was thinking to myself, 'Just a couple of months ago you would never have been able to do this: not care what you looked like, not care about what anyone thought of you at that moment,'" she said.

"People (there) are all so different but they all make you feel part of the group," she said.

Clearly, Hidden Villa is more than just a place to take a picturesque creekside stroll, pick up some farm-fresh produce and snuggle up to an adorable baby goat. The nonprofit has a long history of championing cultural diversity, environmental protection and sustainable agriculture, starting with its progressive founding family, the Duvenecks, back in the 1920s. And it's especially dedicated to education. Around 30,000 people of all ages participate in one of its many programs annually.

Camp has been one of Hidden Villa's most cherished traditions for 75 years. Each summer, more than a thousand Bay Area children enroll, taking part in all sorts of traditional camp fun — swimming, singing, hiking and sleeping under the stars — but also learning about eco-friendly farming, animal husbandry, community-building and social justice.

Thanks to support from charitable donations, including a $5,000 grant from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, financial assistance was granted to 215 young campers so they could attend this summer. Camp tuition, which ranges from around $500 to $1,5000 per camper, depending on the program, goes toward facilities upkeep and staffing. Families with an annual income under $150,000 are invited to apply for "camperships," as the financial aid is known.

While camp programs include children as young as 5, Summer Camp Director Brenda Jones said in recent years Hidden Villa has worked especially hard to improve and expand its programs for older youth, with more direct experience on the farm and an understanding of the issues that have been essential to the mission since its early days, when the Duvenecks created the first integrated, multiracial summer camp in the nation.

"What we're trying to do this year is really work with our programs for older campers to get them more hands-on learning of regenerative agriculture principles, different social-justice approaches and how that interacts with farm systems, and how those things connect," Jones said.

Reflections are a key activity during which "campers can come together and make connections with each other and really learn from our staff, who have personal experience with things like racial injustice," she added.

"Hidden Villa is a really open and accepting place," said Alex Huerta, 17, who, like Piceno, participated in Leaders in Training this summer thanks to a scholarship. Huerta said he's done a bit of gardening at home with his parents but that spending time on a working farm was a valuable experience.

"We had the chance to pick vegetables and fruit ... growing our own food. I thought that was pretty cool," he said.

More important, though, was the sense of community he found, not only through planned lessons, such as a seminar about being an ally to the LGBTQ community, but in the informal sense of openness and acceptance among the staff and campers alike.

"The vibe at Hidden Villa is super welcoming. ... That allows for the campers to have fun no matter what, to be themselves at camp," he said. "That's a new type of feel for me."

In contrast to Piceno, Huerta said he didn't have any particular interest in working with children before participating in Leaders in Training. Now, he said — recalling bonding with second-graders down by the muddy creek — "I feel like I could see myself doing it."

Both Huerta and Piceno said they plan on applying to return next year to train as counselors.

And no matter what future career he may pursue, Huerta credits his camp experience with helping him go into his senior year with a new sense of confidence.

"Being there really changes you; it really affects you positively," he said. "It's helped me come out of my shell. I've been told by family members, by my peers, by my friends, everybody, 'I don't know what it is but there's something different. You seem more confident; you're easier to talk to now,'" he said with a laugh.

"I think it's because of my time at Hidden Villa. ... It's like a big family; it sticks with you."

Apply for a Holiday Fund Grant

Nonprofits serving children and families may apply for funds by downloading our Grant Application Guidelines and Grant Application Form. Application deadline: 11:59 p.m. on January 11, 2021.

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2020 Recipient Agency

49ers Academy
Academic and social support services for East Palo Alto students attending Ravenswood Middle School and Menlo-Atherton High School $20,000

Able Works
Financial literacy education for high school students at East Palo Alto Academy, Oxford Day Academy and Menlo-Atherton High School $5,000

Acknowledge Alliance (Cleo Eulau)
Mental health intervention and prevention aimed at helping children rebound from adversity through school connectedness and learning $5,000

Ada's Café
Employment and empowerment for adults with developmental disabilities and an education on the potential of all people for high school interns $5,000

Adolescent Counseling Services
Social emotional support for local youth through projects like the Outlet Program, which provides support services and counseling for LGBTQ+ youth $7,500

All Students Matter
Literacy, math and social emotional support for TK-5 students in non-charter elementary schools in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park $15,000

Art in Action
Equitable art education featuring diverse visual arts curricula for 1,100 students in the Palo Alto area, 85% of whom attend Title I schools $5,000

Art of Yoga
Yoga, creative art and other mindfulness activities for more than 500 juvenile girls in the criminal justice system $5,000

Bayshore Christian Ministries
Academic, enrichment and faith-based programs involving high-quality learning experienes for youth in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park $5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
Meaningful, monitored mentor matches between adult volunteers and children ages 6 to 18 aimed at defending a child's inherent potential $5,000

Buena Vista Homework Club (Caritas)
Homework help for elementary and middle school aged youth living at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park $10,000

CASA of San Mateo County
Support for youth in the foster or juvenile justice system in the form of a compassionate adult advocate paired with each child $5,000

CASSY
Free school-based mental health services for students and families in four Ravenswood elementary and middle schools $10,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
Legal assistance for low-income families facing housing, immigration and economic barriers to inclusion and equity $10,000

DreamCatchers
Free after-school 1:1 academic support and mentorship for low-income, first-generation PAUSD middle school students $20,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation
Support for students and recent graduates of East Palo Alto Academy through projects like the expansion of EPAA's STEM-focused Dream Lab $7,500

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation
Support for academic success and opportunity through micro grants to credentialed teachers in East Palo alto and east Menlo Park $10,000

East Palo Alto Library (formerly Quest)
Programs and services that promote equitable library access, and additional enrichment for youth, families and the community at large $5,000

East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring
Free tutoring, parent coaching, tennis instruction and enrichment for under-resourced 1-12 graders in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven and North Fair Oaks $10,000

Ecumenical Hunger Progam
Emergency food, clothing, household essentials and sometimes financial assistance for families in need $10,000

Environmental Volunteers
Hands-on science and nature education promoting environmentalism through classroom, field trip and docent-led programs $5,000

Family Connections
High-quality, parent-participation childhood education utilizing academic, social-emotional and family supports $5,000

Fit Kids Foundation
Structured physical activity programs for understerved children aimed at building the foundation for a healthy, active lifestyle $5,000

Foundation for a College Education
Academic programs that develop curiosity and resilience in East Palo Alto students, and college assistance to ensure matriculation, persistence, and graduation $7,500

Friends of Junior Musuem & Zoo
Science and natural world exhibits, classes, field trips and summer camps that engage children's curiosity through interaction with animals $5,000

Health Connected
Sexual health education support including classroom instruction, teacher training and workshops for parents $5,000

Heart and Home Collaborative
A seasonal women's shelter providing meals, storage space and staffed beds from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for unhoused women from Santa Clara County $15,000

Hidden Villa
A 1,600-acre farm and wilderness area fostering educational experiences to inspire a deeper appreciation for nature and food $5,000

Jasper Ridge Farm
Therapeutic, animal-assisted programs for children and adults facing life-threatening illnesses, homelessness, domestic violence and other challenges $5,000

Kara
Grief support, crisis intervention and education for children and adults, with free peer support services in English and Spanish $7,500

Live in Peace
Programs for youth most at risk of dropping out of school that connect them to their own talents, educational pathways, jobs and more $5,000

Marine Science Institute
Hands-on marine science curriculum utilizing a functional research ship to inspire students to become conscientious environmental stewards $5,000

Music in the Schools Foundation
Professional general music and string (violin, viola, cello) instruction for students in the Ravenswood City School District $5,000

Musikiwest
Week-long residencies for chamber musicians, who present difficult issues affecting children to local schools through open rehearsals $5,000

New Voices for Youth (Social Good Fund)
An after-school program in which students learn how to use video cameras in order to document their communities and report on issues of importance to them $3,000

Nuestra Casa
Community education workshops and grassroots leadership development aimed at increasing community participtaion of EPA's Latino population $7,500

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation
Art exhibitions, education, summer camps and other community programming serving more than 150,000 people annually $5,000

Palo Alto Housing
A series of financial workshops, action plans and invidual coaching sessions aimed at improving the financial wellness of 15 low-income families in Palo Alto $5,000

Palo Alto Music Connection
Free music lessons for elementary and middle school students in East Palo Alto, provided by passion volunteer musicians from Gunn High School $5,000

Peninsula Bridge Program
A 12-year program providing educational access and support for 690 students and fostering the confidence needed to pursue career dreams $5,000

Peninsula College Fund
College success services for first-generation college students including scholarship support, mentors, training and internship support $5,000

Peninsula Volunteers
Critical support seniors on the Peninsula, including Meals on Wheels, Alzheimers and dementia services, and activities preventing social isolation $5,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation
Community support for those in the Ravenswood City School District in the form of summer school, mental health counselors, academic enrichment and more $7,500

Rich May Foundation
A full-size, all-weather lighted turf soccer and rugby field; affordable for most, free for Ravenswood School District and St. Francis of Assisi Church $5,000

Rise Together Education
Multi-year mentoring and scholarships for low-income Palo Alto High School students and recent graduates attending college $10,000

Robotics for All
Free after-school robotics classes run by Gunn High School students serving schools where more than 50% of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged $3,600

Silicon Valley Bicycle Exchange
A workspace that refurbishes used bicycles and donates them to those most in need of transportation, independence and recreation $5,000

Silicon Valley Urban Debate League
Speech and debate programs, as well as professional access and mentoring, for underserved youth in East Palo Alto $5,000

St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club
A community-based literacy and enrichment program serving 100 second through fifth graders and their families in East Palo Alto and Belle Haven $5,000

TheatreWorks
The largest performing arts organization in Silicon Valley, offering arts education programs in schools and engaging families at local hospitals $5,000

Vista Center for Blind & Visually Impaired
Evaluation, counseling, education and training to help individuals who are blind or visually impaired accomplish their unique life goals $5,000

WeHOPE
A homeless shelter offering food, mobile showers and laundry, case management and safe overnight parking $15,000

YMCA - EPA
Early learning readiness, homework assistance, summer day camp, active older adult programming, family activities and aquatics $10,000

YMCA - PA Family
Summer academic enrichment and physical activities for first- through fifth-grade students on the federal reduced-price meal program $5,000

Youth Community Service
Life skills classes, extracurricular programs, community service days and summer camps that engage young people in service learning $20,000

Youth Speaks Out
A joint effort between students, teachers, artists and therapists to share perspectives, strengths and vulnerabilities in order to amplify student voices $10,000

Child Care Facility Improvement Grants

Gatepath (Abilities United)
Educational, therapeutic, vocational and family support services for individuals with developmental disabilities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties $5,000

All Five
Early childhood education offering equity and a nurturing environment that utilizes a play-based curriculum $10,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool
Nurturing, play-based education for preschoolers in a warm and supportive learning environment $5,000

The Learning Center
An intimate, welcoming, nurturing, peaceful, yet active environment for children, families and teachers fostering emotional, social, cognitive and physical growth $5,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care
Quality care and education individually tailored to each child's development and accessible regardless of income $10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School
A play-based preschool that enables children to explore the world around them, stimulating their creativity and confidence $6,000

Parents Nursery School
An environment where families work together in the true cooperative spirit to create a positive learning environment for children and their parents $5,000

Scholarship

High School Scholarships
$8,000


As of December 1, 2020
144 donors have contributed $102,265 to
the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld

11 Anonymous3,835
Janis Ulevich125
Tess & Eric Byler75
Robyn H. Crumly*
Stephanie Klein & Larry Baer*
Sue Kemp250
Judy Kramer150
Barbara Klein*
Tobye Kaye*
Michael Kieschnick500
Bruce Campbell250
Cathy Kroymann250
Werner Graf*
Dorothy Deringer250
Amy Crowe500
Gary & Karen Fry250
Bill Reller*
Jody Maxmin*
Martha Shirk1,000
Jim & Karen Lewis*
Judith Appleby250
Vic Befera100
Ted & Ginny Chu*
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Brigid Barton5,000
Brigid & Rob Robinson200
Kaaren & John Antoun2,000
Harry Hartzell250
Susan & Doug Woodman*
Peggy & Boyce Nute*
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Gerald & Donna Silverberg100
Jan & Freddy Gabus250
Hal & Iris Korol*
Sally Hewlett3,000
Arthur Keller500
Bruce & Jane Gee250
Denise Savoie and Darrell Duffie*
Loreto Ponce de Leon100
Thomas Ehrlich500
Ron Wolf250
Andrea Smith100
Bonnie Packer100
Michael & Gwen Havern5,000
Jan and Scott Kilner500
Daniel Cox200
Patrick Burt500
Jocelyn Dong100
Carolyn Brennan*
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
Page & Ferrell Sanders100
Debby Roth200
Diana Diamond300
Dorothy Saxe100
Jeanne & Leonard Ware500
Richard A. Baumgartner & Elizabeth M. Salzer*
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
Linda & Steve Boxer*
Nancy & Joe Huber*
Steven Feinberg5,000
Jean Wu1,000
Marc Igler & Jennifer Cray200
Ann & Don Rothblatt500
Marcia & Michael Katz200
Diane Moore*
Amado & Deborah Padilla250
Pat & Penny Barrett100
Robert & Barbara Simpson*
John Galen*
Julie & Jon Jerome*
Leif & Sharon Erickson500
Edward Kanazawa200
Scott Carlson & Katharine Miller10,000
Stephen & Nancy Levy500
Mike & Jean Couch250
Karen & Steve Ross*
Katherine & Dorsey Bass500
Lani Freeman & Stephen Monismith*
Harriet & Gerry Berner350
Judy Palmer 25
Teresa Roberts500
Carol Uyeno50
Mark Cairns & Amanda Martin100
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
Christine Min Wotipka & Anthony Lising Antonio100
Kathleen Foley-Hughes
  & Tony Hughes1,000
Thayer Gershon50
Xiaofan Lin50
John Pavkovich400
Cynthia Costell100
Richard Zuanich150
Neha Choksi40
Braff Family500
Jennie Savage1,000
Bill Johnson & Terry Lobdell1,000
Dawes Family250
Mary Lemmon20,000
Leonard & Shirley Ely1,000
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Doroguske1,000
In Memory Of

Ray Bacchetti200
Norman L. Frazee*
Sandy Sloan100
Lee Domenik*
Millie Fuchs*
David W. Mitchell*
Rudy Schubert50
Marie & Don Snow200
The Zschokke Family100
Alissa Riper Picker250
Bertha Kalson*
Er-Ying and Yen-Chen Yen250
Mrs. Elsie Yang200
Ernest J. Moore*
Tracy & Alan*
Pam Grady500
Lily & Philip Gottheiner*
Bob Kirkwood2,500
Our Loving Parents Albert & Beverly Pellizzari*
Boyd Paulson Jr3,000
Edward & Elizabeth Buurma*
In Honor Of

Fairmeadow Principal Iris Wong*
Joe Simitian220
Businesses & Organizations

Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Delores Eberhart, DDS*
Hayes Group Architects5,000
Sponsors of Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run:
    Stanford Health Care10,000
    Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation5,000
    Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation5,000
    Palantir5,000
    Facebook5,000
    Wealth Architects5,000
    Chan Zuckerberg Initiative5,000
    Bank of the West1,500
    A Runner's Mind1,000
Apply for a Holiday Fund Grant

Nonprofits serving children and families may apply for funds by downloading our Grant Application Guidelines and Grant Application Form. Application deadline: 11:59 p.m. on January 11, 2021.

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

2018-2019 | 2017-2018 | 2016-2017 | 2015-2016 | 2014-2015 | 2013-2014 | 2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010 | 2008-2009 | 2007-2008 | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004 | 2002-2003 | 2001-2002 | 2000-2001 | 1999-2000