When Mike Delzotti took over as executive director nearly three years ago, UCLA's official charity was operating at a deficit. Today UniCamp, which sends hundreds of poverty-stricken Los Angeles children to camp each summer, is going strong with markedly increased support and revenues totaling nearly $1 million last year and a recent donation of $330,000 to purchase its first campsite, Camp River Glen in the San Bernardino National Forest.
"UniCamp forgot the power of its mission, and it forgot who its friends were. It just needed someone to remind it of its magic and power," says Delzotti. "That's what I've done."
A former Eagle Scout, Delzotti spent numerous summers at camp as a child and worked at a Boy Scout camp for two summers. "I benefited a lot from the Scouts, so I knew how important camp was for kids," he says. "But never in a million years did I think I was going to end up running a charity that runs a camp."
In fact, Delzotti, a native of Chicago, at one time intended to become a Catholic priest. He spent two years in the seminary at Villanova University in Philadelphia before deciding that it just wasn't for him. After graduation, he worked for a few years in health care before joining the staff of the nonprofit Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation for three years as director of national programs. Then he came to UniCamp.
One of the first things Delzotti did was to rebuild the Board of Trustees with the help of honorary chair, Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, whose wife was a former UniCamp counselor. He also hired a new camp director, Wally Wirick.
Delzotti is working to expand and improve the counselor-training program and to acquire a second campsite in the near future. "It's about getting bigger to serve more kids, not just about getting bigger to be bigger," he says.