"That week in nature - repeated each summer - became the fodder for a developing sense of belonging, of growing confidence, and even love."

Diane Mintz, Founder
Twenty-one years ago I sat in a first-grade classroom at Coronado School in Richmond. I had no plan. I had come to help my friend who was the teacher in a classroom of beautiful children, six years old. These kids had much less exposure beyond their neighborhood than my children and the children of my friends. So, I began taking them to local parks on Friday afternoons. It is amazingly easy to delight a child. The long concrete slide at Codornices Park in Berkeley. The Little Farm in Tilden with celery to feed the goats.

That summer I rented a van for ten Saturdays so that ten children and three adults could explore the cultural and natural wonders of the Bay Area. We hit all of my favorite spots, and we became a family. We sang together. We ate together, and, for our last outing, we camped overnight at Chabot Regional Park. Camping was a big hit. Four of the ten children who were part of our "family" that first summer 21 years ago are still in my life.

The following spring, I asked everyone I knew for a donation to send kids to YMCA Camp Loma Mar, near Pescadero. Eighty-five kids received sleeping bags and headed off for a week of sheer delight. Thus, YES was born. An unplanned birth, but YES has since grown and thrived to become a community of parents and children, of adolescents, and young adults, and even the hub of myriad non-profit organizations serving Richmond.

I learned early that no child - no one actually - aspires to something that they have never heard of nor experienced. Something must spark desire and the decision to pursue that something. That week in nature - repeated each summer until the age of 16 - became the fodder for a developing sense of belonging, acceptance, of growing confidence, of an experience of safety, and even love.