CYO photo by Clayton Smith
Archbishop Alexander Sample speaks at the CYO Champions of Faith dinner surrounded by CYO athletes.
CYO photo by Clayton Smith
Archbishop Alexander Sample speaks at the CYO Champions of Faith dinner surrounded by CYO athletes.
More than 800 people paid to attend Tuesday night's third fundraiser dinner for CYO/Camp Howard at the Oregon Convention Center, continuing an upward trend of support for the highly regarded youth organization.

All told, 99 eight-person tables were set for enthusiastic backers of the year-round sports/summer camping program, more than attended the previous two dinners.

The take from the diners, added to Joe Weston's $30,000 grant, $15,000 from the B.P., Lester and Regina John Foundation, $10,000 each from Mark and Debbie Madden and Werner and Colleen Nistler, $5,000 from the Archdiocese of Portland and five grants of $2,500, means CYO/Camp Howard officials should be pleased with the hard work they put into making the gathering such a success.

As the evening drew to a close before 10 p.m., backers broke out their check books and added even more to the organization's coffers, 25 percent of which is included in an endowment fund.

Western Oregon Catholics greeted their new spiritual leader, Archbishop Alexander Sample, and his mother, Joyce, with sustained applause.

For his part, the Kalispell, Montana-born archbishop said their presence this night was a source of joy and honor.

"I cannot believe what is happening here in Oregon with CYO," the 6-foot-2 archbishop told the crowd. "I have never heard of anything like this. It would be the envy of any diocese in the country."

He said backers could count on his support for the youth organization's "incredible work," noting the potential for New Evangelization's successes.

The archbishop soon will get his own key to the gate and the buildings at the forested camp overlooking the Bull Run Watershed, source of drinking water for the City of Portland. That way he can visit during his leisure, taking his cross country skis with him.

St. Mary Sister Krista von Borstel, the indefatigable executive director of the organization, next told backers Tuesday night's fundraising dinner marked the first time in her life when she is older than the archbishop, at 52, the youngest archbishop in the U.S.

She thanked her staff for their hard work; Camp Howard just completed its 60th year of camping adventures for young people. About 1,500 kids participate in the six-week long camping program, the first time away from home for many youngsters. Two hundred campers attend for free, paid for through scholarship money generated by fundraising events like this. The same scholarship policy applies to youth sports, which accommodate 11,000 kids. Everyone who wants can participate and no one is turned away. To date, the organization has raised $200,000 to finance camp improvements besides scholarship and the endowment.

Sr. Krista appealed Tuesday night for financial help in building a projected $500,000 covered play area at camp so kids can play outside when it is raining. The past weekend's at times torrential rains seem to have made an impression on some of the backers in attendance. Many seemed more enthusiastic than usual to be getting out on a weekday night, perhaps a coping mechanism for an earlier than usual onset of the dread Western Oregon Cabin Fever.

The evening's principal speaker, Oregonian sports columnist John Canzano, spoke without notes for 20 minutes or so and ended with a rousing appeal for folks to give even more to back the Catholic youth organization. He told of how he and his wife, Anna, a television news reporter, sent their tearful 10-year-old girl to Camp Howard this summer. The “emergency" mobile phone they purchased for the daughter went unused; she was having too much fun to call home.

"She came home with great memories, new self confidence, new friends and cannot wait to return next summer," Canzano said.

He described CYO as the glue that binds the community.

The veteran sports columnist worked at newspapers in Santa Cruz, Indiana and San Jose, and covered six Super Bowls and five Olympics. But he would prefer to be at a CYO track competition in Western Oregon, watching Mary Holland round the corner than covering the Olympics. She is the Down Syndrome daughter of a Thomas More Parish family who Canzano wrote about.

"CYO sports give young people a chance to fail on the playing field," he said. "They overcome the failure and move on. Failing is OK."