When he was 20 years, David Hughes had the idea to start his own summer youth camp in Mill Valley. His brother, Jeremy, gave him the money. His mother, Bettina, a Dominican alum, gave him the name.
Doodles. David’s childhood nickname.
Thus Camp Doodles was born and, nine years later, it has grown to the point that this summer Hughes will open two new youth camps in Larkspur and at Dominican where Hughes earned his teaching credential in – and his Masters in education in 2009.
“Most people think they can’t make a career out of their passion,” Hughes says. “I’m of the opinion that most people probably could if they set their heart to it and they were willing to put in the time and love and effort that it takes … It might take a little while and it may be tricky but, with love, anything is possible. That’s how I been raised.”
“I would not in my wildest of dreams have imagined that I would have been able to positively effect the lives of so many, not only children, but young adults and adults who come and work at the camp."
Hughes’ mother encouraged him to be a entrepreneur at a young age, selling lemonade on a street corner in Ross. Yet, from the profit, Bettina extracted the cost of the cans of concentrated lemonade.
“That was a very tough lesson early,” Hughes says, smiling.
Hughes’ bloodlines included grandparents who had business ties to Nike and the Gypsy Kings, but he saw his niche with providing a great summer time experience for kids. While attending a boarding school in Massachusetts, Hughes interviewed for a summer camp counselor job in Mill Valley. Then, while an undergraduate student at Sonoma State University, Hughes created his own business model for his own camp and convinced his older brother to loan him the money to incorporate it in 2001.
“I put in mainly sweat equity—and a lot of it—and he had recognized my passion of working with children,” Hughes says.
That passion, Hughes believes, sets him apart from the competition. Hughes, as Camp Doodles manager and its self-anointed “Chief of Fun,” is one of two full-timers on the staff. He has an additional 60-70 summer camp staffers with about 100 volunteers on hand for half- and full-day programs in three locations, including the Albertus Magnus building at Dominican.
“I would not in my wildest of dreams have imagined that I would have been able to positively effect the lives of so many, not only children, but young adults and adults who come and work at the camp,” Hughes says. “The nice thing about the camp is we hit pretty much every generation.”