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Mason Tone-Simpson, a freshman at San Diego’s O’Farrell Charter School, has lost plenty to illness. A cancer survivor, he’s missing an eye and an arm and has limited use of his feet. But a trip to the local mountains showed him that disease hasn’t robbed him of the ability to stand tall.

At Camp Marston, a retreat in the rural town of Julian, Mason not only climbed to the top of a rock-climbing wall but challenged his teacher Brian Pollard to do the same. “I had only planned to climb halfway,” Pollard said, but Mason’s persistence convinced him that he had no choice but to keep up.

Mason Tone-Simpson climbs down after conquering the rock wall.

Mason’s classmates encouraged him and his teacher to succeed, “just as they encouraged each other the entire trip,” Pollard said. “We all learned that Mason is the Man, and that we should never doubt each other or ourselves.”

Each year, every freshman student at O’Farrell gets a chance to experience the outdoors at Camp Marston. Students establish friendships, set goals, and kick off their four years together.

“High school can be hard and going to camp made it easier to bond with classmates,” O’Farrell freshman Amiyah Miller said.

Not only that, they get a chance to try living — for once — without technology.

At camp, students go hiking, participate in a talent show, and play sports and games. Instead of trying to capture the moment on their phones, students were able to enjoy the moment and get to know their peers one-on-one.

Freshmen aren’t the only ones that get to go to camp at O’Farrell. Sixth graders take a week-long trip to Camp Cuyamaca. But at $300 per student, it’s not cheap. Many other schools don’t participate in camp programs anymore because the price is expensive, O’Farrell assistant principal Anne Matthews said.

To keep this tradition alive, O’Farrell helps students fund-raise and gives scholarships to dozens of children annually. By donating $20, you can keep the sixth-grade camp tradition alive for O’Farrell students. Donate to help a student experience the tradition that so much of us remember — telling campfire stories, going on night hikes and experiencing the great outdoors.

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