Truck of Love Ministries Tohono O'odham Truck Of Love (TOTOL) Camp

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TOTOL (Tohono O’odham Truck of Love) camp serves the children of the three southern districts of the Tohono O’odham Nation in Southeast Arizona. Begun in 1987 at the request of the Franciscan sisters who lived in the village of PisinMo’o, the camp has served the children every summer. It has grown from 50 children to more than 200 children. It involves O’odham from the whole nation who come as counselors and presenters. The children get a good dose of fun with arts and crafts and sports and games. Presenters from various tribal organizations present language and culture- these can include basket making, pottery, traditional games, and traditional food preparation. Two meals are served each day.
Mural on the Pisinemo Recreation Center
created in 2004 by a local artist

Tohono O'odham Truck of Love In the early years many camp counselors came from off the reservation. Today the camp is all O’odham. Before camp begins there are three days of leadership training for the many camp counselors where they practice the games and activities with each other.

Since the beginning the theme of camp has been “respect” – respect for each other and the environment. Camp has always been a place of love and acceptance. Children look forward to this one week each year.

TOTOL camp costs a lot. There are the meals, the art supplies, and the vans for transportation. Campers from villages outside of PisinMo’o are picked up each morning and driven home each afternoon. Some villages are 50 miles away.

The Beginnings of TOTOL Camp ~ from the January 2011 Newsletter

Some miracles happen over time. For the past 24 summers we have been part of the unfolding miracle of what began as the Mission San Jose Summer Day Camp and has evolved into the TOTOL Day Camp on the Tohono O'Odham Nation in Arizona. This next June will be summer twenty-five!

In the spring of 1986, as we were leaving the village of Pisinemo, having delivered a truck load of clothing and household items to the Mission, I asked Sister Patrice: "Is there anything else we can do for you?"

Her reply was very simple: "Can you help us create a day camp for the children? The boarding schools have closed and the children will be home all the time now. Summers are long and hot and there is nothing for the children to do."

My reply (as my thoughts and concerns raced around my brain): "Yes. We've never done anything like this, but we work with youth and I'm sure we can get people to help."

We had no idea how to "do" a camp. We'd been loosely connected with some small camps that our children attended. We'd worked with youth in our home parish of St. Nicholas in Los Altos, California. We were brimming over with willingness. But we'd never run a camp.

Three months later we were there with nine brave volunteers (including us) and camp happened. We like to say it was one of the hardest and best weeks of our life. That week changed our lives.

I often tell the story of the morning that altered my outlook on what was happening at camp. It was about 6am on the Wednesday and I was exhausted, looking for some peace in the morning desert. I was walking across the basketball court anguishing over the events of the first two days of camp. The children were so quiet. It was hard to know if they were happy to be at camp. The volunteers we'd brought with us were beyond exhaustion. Sister Patrice and Sister Anne were laboring in the kitchen with no air conditioning. The days were hot and long and then the monsoon rains made everything just a little more difficult.

As I walked that morning, I saw a person running from the east side of the village. She got closer and I saw it was one of the girls in my teen group. She ran toward me and without slowing, reached out and pushed a crumpled piece of paper into my hand. I stopped and uncurled the remnant of paper that had a poem written on it. I've lost the paper and the poem, but the message is still clear in my mind. She had written: Why do these people come 700 miles to be with us – why? They come here because they love us.

We have been blessed to see and hear. We thank God for these marvelous awesome twenty-five summers.

Read about past TOTOL Camps in the previous newsletters:

September 2014

September 2013

July 2012

August 2011

January 2011

August 2010

August 2009


August 2008

August 2007

July 2006



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