By SCOTT BECKER
Camp St. Mary’s reached an important milestone this year in its week of fun and activities.
The Hood River camp completed its 10th year last week. The camp has seen a few changes over that decade. Many campers have grown to be counselors, and some have gone beyond that.
“We have people who were campers the first year of camp who are now in medical school,” said Camp Director Patrick Rawson.
Yet, there are some things that have not changed. Some of the faces that are seen at camp are the same as those from the camp’s first year. A statue of Saint Francis still takes its place at the head of the campfire. And perhaps most importantly, the camp is still fueled solely by volunteers and the generosity of donors.
“Usually this camp costs about $1,800 to put on, that’s not including the donated food and materials,” Rawson said.
This year, the camp involved 64 children ages 7-12, and according to Rawson, started with a focus on giving a summer camp experience to families who otherwise would not be able to afford one.
“The $10 camp fee only covers a small portion of the camp. We charge it because people value something more when it isn’t just given to them, even though it’s probably less then what they spend on food at home,” said Rawson.
Now, however, the focus has moved to bring the Hispanic and Anglo cultures together. “When these kids get to high school they’ll say, ‘Oh, I was in camp with him,’ and they don’t have that barrier between their two cultures,” Rawson said.
The majority of the all-volunteer staff was composed of counselors from Hood River Valley High School and Portland’s Jesuit High School.
The camp is held at the Rawson’s home on Barrett Drive. Twenty tents encircle the fire ring in a large field behind the house. Kids are kept busy all day with activities such as arts and crafts, archery, horseback riding, wood working, swimming, games, and the “mucky-yucky-creek-crawl,” an adventure through Indian Creek.
One of the special projects taking place at the camp was the building of a gateway to the camp and a rope bridge. The project was for partial completion of Joseph Broschart’s Eagle badge for the Boy Scouts of America. Broschart put together the gateway to camp by lashing logs together with rope. He got the campers involved in one of their activity sessions by having them help build the rope bridge.
“This is a new activity for the camp to get the kids involved in,” Broschart said about his project. “They learn a new skill, work together as a team and build self confidence.”
On the last night the camp came together around the campfire to sing songs and perform skits for each other. And with Rawson’s voice failing after a week’s worth of directing, his director-in-training, Michael Broschart, 19, stepped up as master of ceremonies, winning the kids over with funny interludes and goofball antics.
“I’ve never seen him act this crazy!” said his mother, Anne Broschart.
With the program’s continued growth, next year’s camp promises to be even bigger. And according to Rawson, “With these kids and the amount of enthusiasm that they show, the camp should be going strong for another 10 years.”