China Spring Youth Camp gets national award |

China Spring Youth Camp gets national award

Sheila Gardner

In the long run, the true beneficiaries of China Spring Youth Camp’s award-winning juvenile program are the young offenders who call the facility home for six months.

The camp’s substance abuse program has been named one of the nation’s best by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, along with 19 other programs across the United States. Camp director Steve Thaler leaves for Washington, D.C today to accept the award in a ceremony on Monday.

“We’re really, really proud,” Thaler said, “but the true beneficiaries of of this award are the kids who get sent here, complete the program and do well in society.”

Thaler said the residential camp takes a three-step approach with the boys, ages 12 to 18, who are committed to the camp from Nevada. Their average stay is six months.

“It’s kind of a conglomeration of a whole bunch of stuff,” Thaler said. “We’ve put together a program that focuses on reading and writing skills, pre-vocational training and a parenting program.”

Thaler credited the camp’s staff along with Mary Havercamp, Ph.D., from Reno who coordinated the reading and writing program, parenting skills taught by Mariano Sanchez and the vocational program under the direction of Greg Curtis for the success with the juveniles.

“We’re a treatment facility, one of only two in the state,” Thaler said. “We’re a six-month, athletically-based program.Our one-one-one counseling makes us unique. We actually treat the kids through drug and alcohol counseling. The attention our kids get totally focuses on treatment, not just housing.”

Thaler said of the 87 juveniles who attended the camp last year, only 15 reoffended, for a recidivism rate of less than 20 percent.

“It’s another example of how services for youth in our community are being honored,” said District Judge Dave Gamble, an early supporter of the camp. “We’re really blessed to have these kinds of people care about kids in this community. I’m really fired up about the work being done.”

Gamble said the camp’s all-encompassing approach with the boys and their families is crucial to the program’s success.

“It’s one thing to train boys and teach them new ways, but to just send them back into the environment leads to reoffense,” Gamble said. “At China Spring, they’re training parents to expect different kids back and how to deal with that change.”

Thaler also credited the camp’s success to the judges and juvenile probation officials who send boys there for treatment.

“Our camp is supported by certain legislators in our state, all the counties who contribute kids and believe in our camp and the probation officers who believe in our camp. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.

“There’s a big focus now on juvenile justice and the award just highlights what we’re doing in our community toward treatment of juvenile offenders.”

The camp, which can accommodate 40 boys, is located in the Pinenut mountains eight miles south of Gardnerville.