Camp Harmony provides a free camp for underserved kids

| December 28, 2023 | 0 Comments

VOLUNTEER STAFF at Camp Harmony’s winter session are (left to right) Andrew Bank and Nick Melvoin — both of Larchmont Village — and Adam Slutsky.
Photo courtesy Brian Kramer Photography

Camp Harmony is a special place that changes the lives of campers and counselors. It is a free overnight camp for homeless and underprivileged children in Los Angeles. Campers are transported to a camp in Ojai for a week of carefree fun where they participate in new and exciting activities. High school students in grades 10 through 12 apply and pay for the opportunity to serve as counselors.

Camp Harmony (CH), which was founded in 1989, gives campers chances they otherwise may not have. Its goal is to inspire and empower the kids. For many of the underserved campers, this is the first time they have gone to sleepaway camp. Close to 400 campers come up for the week in late August.

For counselors, the experience is one-of-a-kind. “Camp Harmony is totally life-changing,” according to Jordan Passman of Hancock Park, who was a counselor during high school and who has continued to volunteer year-round for the organization for the past 20 years.

MAKING PLAYDOUGH with campers at Camp Harmony is Jordan Passman of Hancock Park, center rear.

He continues, “It’s such a big part of who I am.” Now married and a father of two young kids, he plans on having them become counselors when they’re old enough.

Many volunteers for CH talk about the family atmosphere surrounding this special experience and how participating in its programs changes your perspective.

Another former counselor, Andrew Bank of Larchmont Village, said, “Camp Harmony has influenced the career trajectory of many of its counselors who, because of this experience, want to be involved in social work, public education [and] government.”

Bank, who has been involved with the organization for the past 16 years, recounted that he bawled like a baby on the last day of camp after his first summer. His friend and fellow counselor at the time, Nick Melvoin of Larchmont Village, who is now a board member of Los Angeles Unified School District, said, “You’re here for life.” So far that’s true, agrees Bank. Who knew that Bank would be one of four couples to find their beloveds at CH.

Passman adds, “There isn’t another program like it in the city. It teaches the counselors to be philanthropic. It’s human-to-human.”

The camp operates under the umbrella of United in Harmony (UNH), which is a nonprofit, non-sectarian organization.

Over the years, UNH has added a winter camp that serves 300 campers. It also created a leadership program, which keeps high schoolers involved year round.

The leadership program is a select group of high school students who gather monthly to organize an activity for a small group of campers. This could be bowling or an afternoon of miniature golf.

On Nov. 10, the Chronicle visited UNH’s annual holiday party in Torrance. The space was abuzz with about 300 campers who sat on Santa’s lap, made ornaments, decorated cupcakes and left with two bags of new, donated clothing along with a bag of new books.

Brandon Sadkin, a counselor for the past couple of years and a member of the leadership program and former resident of Larchmont Village, said, “I love it! It feels great to have an impact on the campers and to give back to the community.”

UNH is run almost exclusively by volunteers and operates with monetary and in-kind donations. If you are interested in learning more about the organization, visit

The author is a previous board member — and longtime volunteer of — United in Harmony and Camp Harmony.

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Category: People

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