Our Stories

Summer Camp 2016 Recap

This summer’s Camp Laurel program was an absolute whirlwind of fun, new activities, and so many memories! Thanks to our amazing volunteers and donors, our campers were able to spend a week surrounded by a supportive community of their peers where they got to participate in engaging activities like swimming, challenge courses, native arts, high ropes, archery, and so much more!

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As always, the goal of Camp Laurel is to build our campers’ sense of self-esteem and self-worth by encouraging them to try new activities, work outside of their comfort zones, and develop new skill sets. In addition to many traditional camp activities, Camp Laurel introduced new and unique programming this summer focused on helping our campers develop skills that can benefit their everyday lives. Our older campers were treated to a brand new cooking program courtesy of our guest staff “Thunder” from Jameson Ranch Camp. This workshop not only helped them create culinary wonders for the entire camp community (like Nopales and handmade granola bars), but it also showed them how they can incorporate healthy eating habits using ingredients they can find in their own neighborhoods into their everyday meals.

An exciting new mountain biking program pushed campers of all ages to expand their perceived capacities and rise to the challenge of this invigorating outdoor sport. It also showed our campers a whole new way to explore the beauty of nature and get a killer workout to boot! Campers were further encouraged to expand their love of nature through more new outdoor activities such as geocaching, and trenting (another Jameson Ranch Camp guest program). Geocaching introduced many campers to the different ways they can navigate through nature and trenting gave a whole new meaning to outdoor adventures!

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This summer we also added in some very special elements for our teen campers, including an overnight campout adventure, complete with a long hiking in, tent camping, and stories around the campfire! The teens were encouraged to work as a team to make the program a success, as together they had to hike up all their supplies, build their campsite, and work as a community throughout the evening. In addition to spending a fun evening under the stars, the teen overnight campout also gave this group a chance to bond with other youth encountering the same stigma and challenges as themselves, and helped lay the foundation for a positive peer support system that they can turn to both inside of camp and throughout the year.

The stories they brought back, memories they made, and teamwork they developed just goes to show that s’mores and sleeping under the stars is the perfect way to end the summer!


Although a lot of new programs were added this summer, Camp Laurel still kept our favorite traditions going! Back by popular demand, our campers were treated to Camp Laurel’s favorite evening program- the Great Noodie Bird Hunt! The counselor team also put on one of the best all-camp dances in recent memory, complete with photo booth, costumes, and all the best dance tunes that DJ Kidney Bean could find!

Whether it was through new activities or class camp favorites, campers of all ages were given the unique opportuntiy to try new experiences, rise beyond their perceived capacities, and develop new life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and communication through the programs presented at Camp Laurel.

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Even with all the fun activities that camp offers, we’ve heard time and again from youth that have graduated our programs that Camp Laurel has provided them with so much more than just a fun time. Camp Laurel is a place where they learn to believe in themselves, where they are taught to work with their peers towards common objectives, and where they get to expand their abilities. Its a safe place they can return to year after year where they are not judged for what they’re dealing with, but supported for who they are.

This summer we saw yet another group of amazing young adults embrace these ideals through Camp Laurel’s Counselor-In-Training program. This leadership development program helped these campers use the skills they’ve learned at Camp Laurel to support other youth in the program by taking on leadership roles and responsibilities. Over the course of camp, the teens in this program developed crucial life skills (active listening, communication, problem solving, etc) through leadership workshops and hands-on experience leading programs and supporting the younger campers. This group set the bar even higher for CITs following in their footsteps, with the incredible amount of care, creativity, and great leadership potential they showed every day of the program! What an amazing team!

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This summer was without a doubt one of the most fun Camp Laurel programs in recent memory and makes us even more excited to get back to camp with our Family Camp program early next year! We can’t wait to see you all there!!!

Margot AndersonSummer Camp 2016 Recap
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Camp Laurel changed my life

My name is Grissel Granados and I was a camper with Camp Laurel from the age of 7 to about 17, actually I was there at the very first Camp Laurel ever! Camp Laurel was a family tradition as well, once my little sister was old enough she went to Summer Camp every year with me; and in the winter my mom, my sister, and I all went to Camp Laurel’s Family Camp.
As a person who was born with HIV, Camp Laurel was instrumental to my growing up without stigma and allowing me to just be a kid. While my family made me feel loved and told me I could do whatever I set my mind to, regardless of my HIV status, Camp Laurel was a place where I could actually see it for myself. At camp I could push myself to try new things that were beyond my imagination (particularly growing up as a poor person of color), such as horseback riding, or kayaking…it is where I learned how to swim, and where I challenged my fear of heights with the support of my camp friends and counselors.

Camp Laurel reminded me that I wasn’t alone…

I felt the support of my camp family through the hard times I faced outside of camp as well. When I was 10 I was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo chemo therapy. I remember one camp counselor shaved his head in solidarity when I had to cut off my hair. I also remember having camp friends visit me in the hospital. Camp Laurel reminded me that I wasn’t alone and it was my safe haven in between chemo sessions.
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My friendships with the kids I met through The Laurel Foundation spanned beyond the few days a year we got to spend together. We kept in touch through out the year writing letters to each other. The importance of these friendships  proved to be much more valuable as we grew up and started to face the real world as teens and young adults growing up with HIV..After camp, I went off to UC Santa Barbara for college and proceeded to become a social worker in the HIV field working with Adolescents and Young Adults who are living with or at-risk for acquiring HIV. Despite my professional experience in the field of HIV/AIDS, I found that without the friends I met through Camp Laurel in my life, I started to feel extremely isolated. I started to think I was the only person born with HIV, even though intellectually I knew I wasn’t.



I took it upon myself to re-connect with the community I lost through the process of creating a documentary on the first generation of people born with HIV in the 80s and 90s. I interviewed 4 young adults, one of them being my best friend from Camp Laurel, Allie. There were many commonalities in our story, but the most striking was this sense of isolation. From those who did not get the opportunity to go to camp, there was a almost sense of injustice and envy that they missed out on such a critical source of support that only a few of us had.

I’ve done about a dozen screenings a cross the country since September of last year when I premiered the film and the question that comes up 100% of the time is about camp, because Allie mentions how important it was for her. This clip is only about 30 seconds and yet every single time it is something that touches audiences. People want to know where there are camps, how they can connect kids they know to camp, how they can support The Laurel Foundation’s mission. At every screening I get asked how we recreate something like this for those of us who are in our late 20s and early 30s now, and still very much in need of the experiences that The Laurel Foundation provides.

I am the person I am today because I went to Camp Laurel

.As a 29 year old woman today I continue to reap the benefits of having gone to Camp Laurel during my childhood. I am in touch with camp friends through Facebook, I meet up with them for lunch from time to time. I see pictures of their weddings and their kids and I feel re-connected to my own community… I continue to see examples of how we can do anything we set our minds to despite our HIV status. Every few years I pull out my box of Camp Laurel mementos and reminisce. As I try new experiences now, I always have some example of how I have tried something similar before at camp to give me courage and push my boundaries. I am the person I am today and I continue to try new things because I went to Camp Laurel.



– Grissel Granados

Margot AndersonCamp Laurel changed my life
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Summer Camp 2016

That’s right, it’s almost our favorite time of year again – time for Summer Camp!!!
Camp Laurel’s Summer Camp is a unique program that focuses on traditional outdoor education programming while catering to the fragile physical and mental health of children and youth living with HIV/AIDS. This program exposes our low-income at-risk campers to experiences they would otherwise never encounter, such as working with farm animals, camping outdoors, and collaboratively living with groups of their peers. Our carefully designed Summer Camp also helps increase each child’s self-esteem by challenging their perceived capabilities and empowering them through the development of important life skills (communication, team work, resiliency, creativity, etc).
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This year we’re excited to be returning to the fabulous Jameson Ranch Camp to offer our campers uniquely designed an outdoor education Summer Camp program. That means the summer will be filled with even more of the amazing programs including horseback riding, rock climbing (on real rocks!), mountain biking, and so much more!
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Of course, even more than the activities and campsite, what makes our camps truly magical is our awesome crew of camp counselors who bring the program to life. So help us make this summer one to remember for the kids by joining the Summer Camp team today! For more information about what it means to be a volunteer with The Laurel Foundation, please visit our volunteer page or email our Director of Volunteers, Lauren Franklin.
Margot AndersonSummer Camp 2016
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If you’re looking for a career where you will get to make a direct impact on the lives of at-risk children and youth, then consider joining The Laurel Foundation’s team! The Laurel Foundation’s staff works alongside our donors and volunteers to further our nonprofit’s mission of empowering and supporting children, youth, and families affected by HIV/AIDS. As a member of The Laurel Foundation’s team, you will be able to engage in fulfilling work that makes an tangible difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Nonprofit Management Intern   

Time commitment:

One semester minimum, 15 hrs per week (Monday-Friday)

Position Description:

The Nonprofit Management Intern will support The Laurel Foundation’s mission of empowering children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS by building community networks, participating in outreach events, researching new sources of funding, soliciting in-kind donations, and supporting organizational events. Depending on your interests and skills, you may also have the opportunity to participate in other aspects of nonprofit work such as social media communications, grant writing, and event planning.


  • Be able to clearly communicate the mission, programs, and successes of The Laurel Foundation
  • Research new sources of funding that align with The Laurel Foundation’s mission and vision
  • Complete all tasks in a timely manner
  • Represent The Laurel Foundation at outreach and community events
  • Update and develop new outreach materials
  • Convey The Laurel Foundation’s mission across various social media platforms
  • Assist in fund raising campaigns and events


  • Previous professional, volunteer, or classroom experience with nonprofits (preferred)
  • Strong attention to detail and time management skills
  • Exceptional organizational, communication, and writing skills
  • Able to take constructive criticism and confidence in expressing ideas
  • Basic social media knowledge and graphic design skills
  • Self-motivated and able to work with minimal supervision
  • Ability to plan, organize, and effectively present ideas to a group
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office programs and basic office equipment
  • Creativity and a great sense of humor


  • Gain insight into nonprofit management and structure
  • Network with local businesses and nonprofit professionals
  • Work with diverse populations in cross-cultural or multicultural settings
  • Build professional resume with tangible outcomes
  • Learn or expand current knowledge of the fundamentals of fundraising

Application Instructions:

Send resume and Nonprofit Management Intern Application to our Director of Volunteer, Lauren Franklin, at lfranklin@laurel-foundation.org

Margot AndersonCareers
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2016 Volunteer of the Year!

The Laurel Foundation is extremely fortunate to have the support of an outstanding volunteer base, who sacrifice their own personal time and resources to give back to children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS. It is only through this amazing group of selfless individuals that we are able to continue to provide free educational and support programs for the at-risk families we serve! It takes a very special kind of person to devote their vacation days, or take time off school, to volunteer, and today we want to take a moment to recognize one volunteer that has gone above and beyond even that high criteria.

Due to her incredible drive and dedication to supporting the families we serve, The Laurel Foundation is delighted to announce that our 2016 Volunteer of the Year is the one and only TATOR TOT!


To find out more about Tater Tot’s experience volunteering with The Laurel Foundation, we started by asking how she got involved in the first place.

I first found out about Camp Laurel through my friend, Laura (Cheese). We were grabbing food after work one day and I mentioned that I was trying to find ways to get involved in the community. Hearing that, Laura said that I had to give volunteering at Camp Laurel a try because I’d be a perfect fit for the program.   Although I had never worked at a camp before, I knew that I liked working with kids from my experience as a classroom aid and working at a family family back in WA. The way that she spoke about Camp Laurel and the community it creates definitely got me interested, so I decided to apply. 

I’m so glad it all worked out, because my phone interview to join my first camp was rough! Right before I was scheduled to call the office, my car broke down, leaving me stranded in the Santa Monica Library parking lot. I had to answer interview questions while muffling the sound of traffic and dodging people asking for donations! 

Fortunately, despite her rough first call, Tater Tot showed to be a natural fit for our camp family and has been volunteering with us ever since. Not only is TaterTot an incredible asset to camp, she has also been an unbelievable support at our events throughout the year and at the office. No matter if its a project large or small, she never hesitates to step up and help out!
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Nothings prepares you of the amazing community that makes up the Camp Laurel family.

I remember at my first camp training they pulled me and the other new counselors aside right when the day started. When we walked in to join the rest of the staff, everyone started singing the “we love you new counselors” song, and I was blown away. I thought, “what the heck have I just gotten myself into?!”


Since she joined The Laurel Foundation’s team in 2013, TaterTot has been a steady fixture at both camp and The Laurel Foundation’s year-round events. In fact, Tater Tot hasn’t missed a camp since she started volunteering at Camp Laurel!

In particular, I love the evening programs at Camp Laurel because you never know what you’re going to get with them! Anytime you run a big all-camp activity, you can be sure that something changes from what you had planned and that you’re going to have to be flexible and adjust. Thats one of the great things about volunteering at camp. I think, that you have to learn to let it go and just live in the moment. 
We asked Tater Tot why coming back to Camp Laurel every year was so important to her, and her answer really touched our hearts:

I keep coming back to Camp Laurel because its so rewarding to get to know the campers through the different programs. As you keep coming back, campers begin to recognize you and you become a part of their lives. And every camp you get to know them a little better as well, which really gets you invested in these kids and their development as individuals. Its almost like they become a part of your extended family and every time you reconnect at camp is like a reunion.

My favorite part of camp is the unscheduled time you get with your campers in the cabins. Even though these aren’t the times when we’re doing all the fun camp programming, this is when you really get to know the kids you’re working with. When its just your cabin hanging out, they let you see their silly sides and who they are as individuals. This is when you really get to see them grow.


TaterTot, the positivity, compassion, and dedication you bring to everything you do is an inspiration to witness. Thanks for being the amazing person you are! We’re so lucky to have you on The Laurel Foundation team!

Margot Anderson2016 Volunteer of the Year!
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February Donor Spotlight- Doug Wheeler!

This month we are delighted to recognize all that our amazing donor Doug Wheeler has done for The Laurel Foundation and the children, youth and families that we serve.
Doug has been a wonderful support to our nonprofit for many years and always goes above and beyond to help out The Laurel Foundation in any way possible. Whether its connecting The Laurel Foundation to corporate sponsors, donating camp supplies for Camp Laurel’s overnight trips, or securing shoes with the support of Big 5 Sporting Goods for the children in our program, Doug has been a tremendous asset to The Laurel Foundation.
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Doug Wheeler has also been a driving support for The Laurel Foundation’s annual Ride for AIDS, giving his time, energy and financial support to ensure the event’s success. In addition to riding 50 miles along the Pacific Coast to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS and The Laurel Foundation, Doug is hands-down the biggest recruiter of Ride donors and supporters. When our nonprofit decided to no longer host Ride for AIDS in 2014, Doug kept the tradition alive by independently running Wheeler’s Ride for AIDS in honor of The Laurel Foundation, raising over $5,000 each year!
Doug, thank you for all that you do to further The Laurel Foundation’s mission of supporting children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS! We are so grateful to have you as a part of The Laurel Foundation’s team!
Margot AndersonFebruary Donor Spotlight- Doug Wheeler!
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Spring Family Camp

We are excited to announce that our 2016 Family Camp will be occurring May 6 – 8 (Friday – Sunday).  We have heard time and time again that the parents want a warmer camp (hence the date change) and a more “retreat-like” setting. Well … WE HEARD YOU! This Spring our Family Camp will be at a BRAND NEW SITE! Thats right, we will be hosting our first ever Family Camp program at the gorgeous Camp Stevens, located in the mountains of San Diego County.

We are incredibly excited for this brand new venture and know that you will be too. Our CEO, Margot  Anderson, explored the facilities of Camp Stevens late last year and took a ton of pictures, specifically to share with you. So prepare to get excited about this new site through a quick picture tour. Lets get going!



One of the things that drew us to Camp Stevens immediately was its beautiful grounds and comfortable facilities.

Camp Stevens

This beautiful retreat-like camp will be more comfortable for our parents.  The facilities will give the parents a more relaxed setting, one that will help facilitate the formation of important support groups.


The dining room is not only AWESOME, but the food is too!  Organic farming on site will teach both the children and parents how the importance of good food choices can be healthy and taste GREAT!

We also fell in love with the cozy meeting rooms and indoor programming space!  The parents now can sit by a fire, sip on tea and coffee, and munch on popcorn while participating in important discussions facilitated by our volunteer social workers.


The comfortable cabins didn’t hurt either!


Plus, how neat would sleeping in a fully equipped yurt be?!


We saw at Jameson Ranch Camp this summer how great organic, homegrown food can taste while you’re up at camp. Camp Stevens, as mentioned, grows a lot of the food we will be eating on site, and additionally offers cooking classes! Now we can all learn how to cook healthy food that tastes GREAT.



Just like summer camp … we will pick fresh eggs for breakfast!


Best part of all (in our opinion) is that Camp Stevens offers all these amazing amenities and STILL has all the fun camp activities that we know and love here at Camp Laurel.


High and Low Ropes

Climbing Wall


Swimming Pool

We could not be more delighted with this campsite and wish that we were at camp already so we can experience it all in person! Spring Family Camp is definitely going to be a program to remember – we hope to see you all there! So save the date and please join us May 6 – 8 for Spring Family Camp 2016!

Check out our video of Spring Camp and other 2016 programs!

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Margot AndersonSpring Family Camp
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January Donor Spotlight – Angel Flight West!

Angel Flight West has been a wonderful support to The Laurel Foundation for many years, providing free flights to Camp Laurel for our at-risk campers!

Angel Flight West is a non-profit organization of volunteer private pilots who provide free air transportation for families affected by life-threatening illnesses. Angel Flight West’s volunteer pilots donate their time, aircraft, and fuel costs to provide transportation to and from Camp Laurel for campers that otherwise would not be able to participate. In the past two years alone, Angel Flight West has provided 160 flights to the children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS served by The Laurel Foundation!


We cannot be more grateful for our partnership with Angel Flight West! Its only thanks to the dedication of their staff and amazing volunteer pilots that many of our families are able to participate in our Camp Laurel programs and able to access the vital educational and support services that camp provides.

Ashley Mia

See all of the great work Angel Flight West does for children and individuals affected by life threatening illnesses by visiting their website, www.angelflightwest.org or following them on Facebook. What an amazing organization!

Margot AndersonJanuary Donor Spotlight – Angel Flight West!
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2016 Camp Laurel News!

As you have probably already noticed, this has been a big year of growth and change for The Laurel Foundation. Our goal as an organization for 2016 is to take in the feedback we’ve heard from our families, Board of Directors and volunteers to improve our programs and make them even more impactful for the children we serve. Through post-camp surveys, informal conversations, and official focus groups, we have heard a LOT of amazing feedback thats given us great insight into areas that we can grow and improve for years to come. We can’t thank you enough for the insights you’ve all shared with us- its only thanks to your feedback that we can continue to improve as an organization!

So whats in store for The Laurel Foundation in 2016?
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2016 Family Camp

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We’re going to be kicking this year off with a big shift in our Family Camp programming. For the past couple of years, the biggest feedback we’ve received by our families and volunteers working with our adult campers, is that Camp Laurel really challenges our parents to step outside of their comfort zones through both the programming,  accommodations and weather. While we believe strongly in providing opportunities for our campers, both adults and children, to expand self-perceived capacities,  we feel that providing a space that can better accommodate our adult campers physical needs would allow them and the children to be more at ease and provide a more empowering environment overall.

With that feedback in mind, we will be shifting our Family Camp program to the spring and will be using a brand new site that provides a more retreat-like atmosphere for our adult campers, while still providing the camp programming we all know and love! The exact dates for Family Camp are in the process of being confirmed, but we know that it will fall in late April or mid May. Keep your eyes peeled for pictures of our brand new (gorgeous) campsite and a video site tour in mid-December.

Day Events


Building a year-round community within the families we serve continues to be one of our main goals. To better support this goal, we plan on offering more day programs for the children and youth living in both the Los Angeles and San Diego areas in between our Camp Laurel programs.

This past year we were able to partner with AIDS Healthcare Foundation to provide an arts empowerment event for the girls aged 10-14.  Additionally this summer we provided our families with paddle boarding lessons at our Beach Day event and partnered with Positive Adventures for a day of family games and team building. We heard great things from our families about the effect of these one-day programs and they have made it clear that they want to see more of the same going forward.    

In 2016 we aim to expand our day events and continue to offer our families a chance to reconnect and grow together throughout the year. Be on the lookout for awesome events in your area!

CIT Retreat

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We love our CITs! The CIT program is without a doubt one of the most impactful leadership development opportunities we offer at The Laurel Foundation, and we want to help build it up even further! This year we plan on giving our new and returning CITs a special weekend retreat where they can come together as a unit and develop their leadership, communication, conflict resolution, and team building skills before working directly with the youth at Summer Camp as Counselors in Training.

More details about this weekend retreat are forthcoming. We could not be more excited for this one!

Summer Camp


Our families can’t stop talking about how much our campers enjoyed Summer Camp this year! All the new activities- horseback riding, zip line, mountain boarding, and rocking climbing just to name a few- made for an incredibly fun and empowering program for the kids. Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received, we plan on continuing the outdoor education focused Summer Camp program we kicked off this past year in conjunction with Jameson Ranch Camp.

With one camp at this new site under our belt, we have a clear idea of which areas we can improve upon, build up, and make even more special the next time around! A major thanks to all our Summer Camp counselors who gave us fantastic suggestions on how we can take this camp to the next level! Summer Camp dates will be in August.

With all these programs in store, 2016 is definitely going to be a year to remember! On top of the programs listed above, we will of course be having all the traditional events The Laurel Foundation hosts each year – Holiday Party, Golf Tournament, and Wine Tasting Benefit. There’s a possibility of even MORE events and programs getting tacked onto our 2016 calendar as well, so give us YOUR feedback on what you would like to see happen with The Laurel Foundation this next year!

Please contact us anytime at (626) 683-0800 or LFranklin@Laurel-Foundation.org if you have any questions or comments about our upcoming 2016 programs.

Margot Anderson2016 Camp Laurel News!
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World AIDS Day is Giving Tuesday!


#GivingTuesday is here once again and this year it falls directly on World AIDS Day!

Every year The Laurel Foundation uses Worlds AIDS Day to bring awareness to the ongoing fight against HIV and AIDS, and to support  the everyday challenges children, youth and families face due to living with this disease. This year World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for our volunteers, supporters and community to directly support the programs The Laurel Foundation provides for families affected by HIV and AIDS by pledging to become Sustaining Donors in honor of #GivingTuesday.

Last year for #GivingTuesday, over 20 individuals decided to support our nonprofit by becoming sustaining donors. Through their support, we were able to raise over $4,200 for The Laurel Foundation’s 2015 programs! This year we hope to double the amount of sustaining donors that pledge their support to the children and families we serve.


As a sustaining donor, YOU choose your giving level, and your contribution is automatically deducted each month from your credit card or bank account. By choosing a contribution amount that YOU feel comfortable with, you will help to change the lives of HUNDREDS of children, youth and families affected by HIV and AIDS. Even $10 a month,  can make an incredible impact on the at-risk youth we serve.

What your dollars do!

So this World AIDS Day – December 1, join The Laurel Foundation in supporting children, youth and families affected by HIV and AIDS in honor of World AIDS Day and #GivingTuesday by becoming a sustaining donor. Visit our donations page to set up a giving plan that works with YOUR life.

1794710_10152669200389900_1371016510535254468_nOur hope is that you will spread the word through social media and email everyone you know to help us reach our goal.  PLEASE HELP US – SERVE THE KIDS – THIS #WORLDAIDSDAY – #GIVINGTUESDAY!


Margot AndersonWorld AIDS Day is Giving Tuesday!
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