Ed LangloisCORBETT — For a weekend each summer at Camp Howard, people of all ages get to act like children. It’s the annual family camp, when grandma, grandpa, parents and kids can have a blast on 70 acres in the woods and then pile into the same cabin at night.
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Jennifer Robbins’ older children, ages 12 and 13, attend regular sessions of Camp Howard and love it. At those times, 3-year-old Sam weeps bitterly because he gets left behind. But at family camp, Sam gets to come along. Robbins’ mother also attends.
“It’s a place where we can all be together,” says Robbins, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Beaverton. “The kids do what they like. Play in the dirt, hide-and-seek, basketball.” As for Robbins, she took part in the trap shooting session for adults, led by Sister Krista Von Borstel, executive director of CYO and Camp Howard.
“Family camp is when you get to be ageless,” Robbins explains.
Grandma, who is also known as St. Mary Sister Diana Jean Neumayer, spent time dribbling a basketball with Sam, reading under the towering firs and making a tie-dye shirt.
“It’s fun to do something all together and do activities we don’t usually do,” says Sister Diana Jean, who entered the convent after raising a family. “It’s good to get away from everyday stuff as a family. Out here, people focus on each other better.”
Phones, computers and TVs get a rest for the weekend.
Another three-generation family walks down a scenic road from a ridge, having just viewed the archery range and climbed a large elevated platform for star gazing.
“We just love it here,” says Chantel Doby, at camp with 5-year-old daughter Sidda, 2-year-old nephew Sarkis and mother Dora Doby.
The Vodden family of St. John Fisher Parish in Portland was persuaded by 12-year-old Elle to give family camp a try. Elle, a six-year veteran of regular camp, convinced them with stories of camaraderie and fun activities that do not involve electronics.
“I like to see the kids running around,” says Claudia Tresente, who came to family camp with husband Robert, their two children, plus a nephew and family friend.
One beauty of family camp is that moms and dads don’t need to cook. Camp staff take care of that.
Mike McDougall, a member of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Portland, came with children ages 11, 9 and 7. He thought of family camp as a good precursor to sending children here by themselves in future summers. But family camp is also a lot of fun for adults, McDougall explains.
“You can forget about cooking and washing dishes and other routine house chores,” he says. “And it’s all in a lovely surrounding.”