Watch Camper Ride the Camp Howard Giant Swing


When I heard about a giant swing I wondered what it was.  My imagination did not image what it really was until I saw the designs.  Once I understood the concept I was excited for the people who would ride it.  As a youth, I loved the roller coasters and all kinds of exciting rides.  The giant swing, I was sure, would be a hit with the campers at Camp Howard.

Around March of 2016 two “giant” poles were delivered to the camp and quickly thereafter, the construction company came to the camp and began work on the project. By April, the structure for the swing was in place and ready for business.

During staff training in June of 2016, the first group of individuals were trained on operating the giant swing.  During one of the training periods, the CYO/Camp Howard Executive Board came to the camp to put their stamp of approval on it and also make sure it was safe for the kids to ride.  The Board members rode the swing along with the zip line to ensure we could in good conscience, allow the kids to ride! #sistersblogs, #cyocamphoward

BELOW: Giant Swing structure in place 2016


BELOW: Trained Camp Howard Staff fits a parent into the giant swing harness.


BELOW: CYO/Camp Howard Business Director, Virginia Martines takes one of the first rides on the Giant Swing to make sure it is safe for the kids to ride on!


BELOW: Camper tries out the big swing to her delight!

Christ Child BXB Courts at Camp Howard

The Christ Child Society of Portland made money available for Camp Howard to build basketball courts in 2010 with a little left over to go toward the cover which was installed in 2015.  The three full sized basketball courts have been a game changer at the camp on rainy days and sunny days alike as the cover provides refuge from the rains and the sun.

When the busses for the summer programs arrive at the camp they unload campers under the Christ Child courts.  The facility provides wonderful options for the camp from organization of people, sorting luggage on a rainy day, to all kinds of activities during the week rain or shine.  Last year, arts and crafts took place on the other side of the blue curtains pictured below.  #sistersblogs #cyocamphoward



Building Bird Houses at Camp Howard

Six campers signed up for bird house building at Camp Howard last summer.  It reminded me of my high school days in FFA (Future Farmers of America) when as a frosh one of the contests was to build a bird house.  I won the contest for the region that year (no brag just fact) and I credit the “mechanical gene” that I inherited from both sides of my family for that accomplishment.  I like woodworking!

We set about cutting out kits for the kids in the camp shop then had a debate over what tools the kids could use.  We agreed the hand tools plus the electric drill would all be acceptable with close supervision.  The kids loved using the drill.  The holes were pre-rilled a little smaller than the screws to keep the wood from splitting and enable the kids to be successful immediately.  They did a good job as you can see from the pictures.  We painted them the same paint scheme as the original cabins at Camp Howard.

We are offering Birdhouse Camp again this summer at Camp Howard.  A great sensory activity that gives kids a feeling of confidence and accomplishment! #sistersblogs #cyocamphoward

BELOW: The photos speak for themselves! Special thanks to Counselor Phoebe for her work on the project!


Have You Experienced the “Bus Stop”?

Over the past 20 years, some of my favorite memories revolve around the bus stop. There are many facets to the bus stop!  Families arrive at The Madeleine School in Portland to check luggage, paperwork, meds and most important…the camper!

Similar stories are played out year after year as parents bring their child to the bus and in many cases, it will be the child’s first time away from home.  Not sure if it is harder on the parent or the child. The parent looks through the window at their child who is either looking forward to the fun ahead or crying their eyes out.  Might be Mom on the other side of the window crying her eyes out.  Either way, it is a touching moment.  If we can get through this part of the trip, the rest will be easy!

Next, we get to camp with three to six busses filled with kids.  At the camp, a well oiled machine is waiting to unload the luggage from the luggage truck, sort it and distribute it to the various units before the kids arrive at their cabin.

The campers are welcomed by another group as they step off the bus onto the Camp Howard campground. The children are welcomed with a slap of hands as they make their way, pillows in hand, to the gathering space.  The goal for the first hour of arrival is to get the campers situated into their cabin group, engage in ice breakers to get to know one another and make their way to their cabins to choose a bunk.

When the kids get back on the bus to return home, often there are more tears.  As they arrive at the Madeleine they are singing the Camp Howard Fight Song as they arrive at the end of the journey.  Happy to tell Mom and Dad about their experiences and bittersweet feelings about leaving the fun and independence they experienced at camp.

The bus stop is a very powerful place on both ends of the trip.  I can tell you it is true as I have been there for 20 years worth of experiences.

2007 arrival at camp copy

ABOVE: 2005 kids arrive at the Camp

2008 bus ride Home copy

ABOVE 2007 – Bus leaves Camp with a load of campers headed back home!

2008 bus stop

ABOVE: Sr. Krista visits with some campers getting ready to head to camp in 2008.  (Cheyenne Cunning is a camper – the one with the cougar award)

2009 Bus at the Mad copy

ABOVE: 2009 – Six busses load up as the luggage bus is packed for a trip to Camp Howard.

2010 Bus stop 1 copy

2010 ABOVE Campers load the bus for a trip to camp at the Madeleine

2010 Bus stop 2 copy

2010 ABOVE – Parents say goodby just before the busses roll out of the Madeleine for Camp.

2010 Bus stop 3 copy

2010 ABOVE – Campers express a variety of emotions as they gaze at their parents prior to leaving for camp.

2010 Bus stop 4 copy

2010 ABOVE – Signage points parents and campers in the direction they need to go at the bus stop

2010 Bus stop 5

2011 ABOVE Campers arrive at Camp Howard and are welcomed by staff

2010 Bus stop 6

2011 ABOVE Campers arrive at Camp Howard and are welcomed by staff

2010 Bus stop 7

2011 ABOVE Campers arrive at Camp Howard and are welcomed by staff

2010 Bus stop 8

2011 ABOVE Campers arrive at Camp Howard and are welcomed by staff

2010 Bus stop 112010 Bus stop 122010 Bus stop 132010 Bus stop 142010 Bus stop 152014 Busses arriving copy

ABOVE 2016 – busses arrive at the camp to take campers home

2016 Bus stop 2

ABOVE 2016 Parents wait for campers to arrive after a week of camp.


Camp Howard “Gimpl” Dining Hall Slated for Replacement

The Camp Howard Dining Hall was built in 1953 after the Horton Family made a land donation to St. Vincent de Paul for the purpose of a Catholic youth camp.  Archbishop Howard accepted the gift and the Hortons encouraged the naming of the camp after the Archbishop.  The camp was first known as Camp Howard of Oregon.

The deed was signed, turning the tree farm property over to Camp Howard of Oregon in January of 1953.  In April, the dining hall, a unit of 6 cabins, a showerhouse, staff cabins, a facility manager’s home and a water system were built and installed.

The first camping session began in June of 1953.

CYO/Camp Howard is working on a capital campaign to raise funds to replace the dining hall at the camp.  2.8 million has been raised with a goal of 3.5 million.

The dining hall has served over 100,000 campers over the years and has proved to be the heart of the camp as any kitchen tends to be.  The time has come, however, to replace the aged building.  The new building will include a foundation and restrooms among other modern conveniences.  Due to structural issues that would cost a great deal of money to repair, the old building will be eventually removed.

The dining hall was named “Gimple Hall” in 2002 to honor Father Carl Gimpl, the second camp director at the camp with a record 25 years of service at the camp.


1953 Dining Hall Camp Howard

ABOVE: 1953 newly finished Camp Dining Hall.  First campers line up for meal time.

1956c Camp Howard Dining Hall copy

ABOVE: 1953 Camp Howard Dining Hall meal time!  Half the dining hall used as chapel in early years.

1999 Dining Hall 0

ABOVE 1999 Camp Howard Dining Hall

1999 Dining Hall 1 copy

ABOVE 1999 Camp Howard Dining Hall.  the covered wings were added in 1978.

1999 Dining Hall 2 copy

ABOVE 1999 Camp Howard Dining Hall – Note, no windows in the lower part. These would be added in 2001.

1999 Dining Hall 3 copy

ABOVE 1999 Camp Howard Dining Hall – Note the ramp added for wheel chair access.  The old stairs are still visible.

1999 Dining Hall 5 copy

ABOVE 1999 Camp Howard Dining Hall – the building is perched on pier blocks

1999 Dining Hall 6 copy

ABOVE 1999 Camp Howard Dining Hall – Front View

2001 Dining Hall copy 2

ABOVE 2001 Camp Howard Dining Hall – Windows are added at the ends of the building greatly improving the light inside. (Dick Weigel in pink shirt – Board President at the time.)

2001 Dining Hall windows

ABOVE: Windows are in and now a little trim paint to be introduced!

2005 Dining Hall

ABOVE: Camp Howard Dining Hall front view 2008

2009 Dining Hall

ABOVE: Camp Howard Dining Hall 3/4 view 2008

2011 Dining Hall Paint & Stain 1 copy

ABOVE: Camp Howard Dining Hall freshly stained and trimmed 2011.  Looks pretty good doesn’t it?

2011 Dining Hall Paint & Stain 5 copy

ABOVE: Camp Howard Dining Hall freshly stained and trimmed 2011 front and side

2015 Dining Hall

ABOVE: Camp Howard Dining Hall 2015.


Composting – Can You Do This AND Keep out the Bears?

When the Outdoor School challenged the camps to compost everything from the dining hall at the camps they use several years ago, Camp Howard answered the challenge.

Karen von Borstel purchased a book on composting and then set out to get it done at Camp Howard.  She brought in some straw from the family farm in North Central Oregon, gathered some branches, manure from the local horse farm (to hide the scents from bears), dug some trenches and then put out the collection barrels at the dining hall.

The ODS counselors began filling the collection barrels which Karen picked up with the tractor and hauled down to the garden area.  She dumped the waste into the trench and covered it with the branches, manure, straw and dirt.  The waste included paper cups and plates and biodegradable table ware at times.  The paper ware disintegrated practically overnight and steam would roll off of the mixture as it “perked”!

Camp Howard continues to compost year around and what a great soil additive in the garden area!

But those bears…they tried to get into the compost from time to time but the perfecting of the process has, over time, effectively kept them out of the composting area!  If you need some tips on composting, I am sure Karen would be happy to give you some tips from her own experience!

BELOW: The soil at Camp Howard is rich.  The additives from composting has added to that richness and much is grown in the garden at the camp that adds to the food needs throughout the year.