Concert raises more than $61,000 for Rancho Alegre

Local musician Dylan Ortega, right, belts out country favorites and his own music at the Rebuild the Ranch benefit concert for Rancho Alegre.

By Raiza Giorgi

Nashville musicians and local country singer Dylan Ortega helped raise more than $61,000 in September at a concert to benefit Rancho Alegre, the Boy Scout camp that was destroyed by wildfire in July.

Nashville’s Eric Chesser, James Robert Webb and Jaime Lee Thurston joined Ortega for “Rebuild the Ranch” at Solvang Festival Theater, where silent and live auction items combined with ticket sales contributed to the total money raised for the Whittier Fire Camp Restoration Fund.

Country music legend Charlie Daniels sent an autographed fiddle for the silent auction.

One of the biggest hits from the silent auction was a violin signed by legendary country fiddler Charlie Daniels.

Scout leader Shawn Knight, owner of Knight Broadcasting that includes KRAZy Country 105.9 FM, said he received a text from Daniels that he was sending a fiddle to help with the fundraising efforts.

“When I got a strange text from someone saying they wanted to donate a fiddle, and I asked, ‘Who is this?’ with a reply of ‘Charlie Daniels,’ I just about fell out of my chair. That was incredible. And sure enough, a day or two later the fiddle arrived,” Knight said.

The Los Padres Boy Scout Council’s Rancho Alegre camp and Outdoor School lost more than 90 percent of its structures to the Whittier Fire on July 8.

“Troop 41 has done a phenomenal job supporting Rancho Alegre and the outdoor school. It’s amazing to see what they have put together in such a short time,” said Carlos Cortez, executive director of the Boy Scouts council.

After the fire ravaged the camp, Cortez noted that the timing was very fortunate. On the morning of the fire, a group of young scouts had left the camp, and the next day another group of older scouts were supposed to arrive.

“Even though we lost our structures we didn’t lose any lives, and that’s the most important thing. If the fire had been either 24 hours earlier or later, this might be a different story,” Cortez said.

This is the 52nd year for the Boy Scouts at the 213-acre camp off Highway 154 across from Lake Cachuma. Activities and education there included swimming, rowing, campfires, archery, star gazing, hiking, crafts, camping skills, and lessons about animals and plants, among others.

“I am so glad to be a part of this effort. I grew up playing sports and know when you come together a group can do just about anything. This is my first time playing in California and I knew this was a great cause to help support,” said Chesser, one of the Nashville musicians.

Webb came to the valley a few days before the concert and was able to take an aerial tour of the burn area.

“The Boy Scouts are a part of my upbringing, and I cherish those memories of being outdoors and exploring nature. Hope it can be rebuilt quickly,” Webb said.

The Outdoor School that also uses the camp serves more than 4,000 fifth-grade and sixth-grade students each year, hosting day trips and overnight programs. Some schools spend multiple days using the outdoor education program, which is geared toward nurturing community and environmental stewardship.

The only buildings spared by the Whittier Fire were the dining hall, the pool area, the barbecue building and a small cabin; 27 structures were destroyed.

With most of their buildings lost, Cortez said, this is the time to make the camp facilities even better than they were before.

“We want to include more ‘green’ practices, like installing solar panels and finding other ways to be more environmentally friendly. It’s really a blank canvas, and we want to make the science center even better with a lab for testing and analyzing data,” he said.

Their costs of rebuilding are estimated at $10 million, with $7 million of that covered by insurance, Cortez said. Cortez said he welcomes a conversation with anyone who has ideas to rebuild the camp. He can be reached at carlos.cortez@scouting.org or at 805-967-0105.

Los Padres Council is a 501(c)(3) charity, so financial contributions are tax-deductible. For more information log onto www.lpcbsa.org/whittier-fire-reconstruction/66430.