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Oregon's Camp Howard still going strong after 66 years

Off logging roads and deep in the woods outside Corbett, Camp Howard has been inspiring kids in the Portland-metro area since it opened in 1953.

Summer officially starts this week. And what's more summer than going away to camp?

Quintessential sleep-away summer camps with cabins, camp fires, capture the flag games and archery, are still going strong today, even in today's social media obsessed world.

Off  logging roads and deep in the woods outside Corbett, Camp Howard has been inspiring kids in the Portland-metro area since it opened in 1953.

"The kids that step off that bus, especially the kids who have never had a camp experience so far, they're going to put some tools in their toolbox that will last a lifetime," says camp director Sister Krista von Borstel.

Register for Camp Howard summer camp

She's Sister, because she's a nun. Camp Howard is run by the Catholic Youth Organization and partners with many of the Catholic private schools around the metro area.

But if you're not Catholic or religious even in the slightest, know that kids of all schools and backgrounds make up this magical place.

Sister Krista says it's about a 60/40 split between private and public school children of all faiths.

The magic of the summer camp

Sister Krista says an outdoor, sleep away camp is a big milestone for kids.

"It's going to be making decisions for themselves for the first time, being away form mom and dad," she said. "A lot of kids come to camp who have never been away from home before. Anytime you get kids out into nature, you're putting something into their soul that nourishes them for the long journey and they're just going to be better people."

Connor Garcia worked for several summers through college as a camp counselor, leading boys age 6 to 10 in their cabin and through games and meals each week. Now, as an adult, he works full-time for Camp Howard because it had such a good impact on him.

"As the week goes on, you can really see them connecting with the other campers and just really engaged on activities and it gets them ingrained with the outdoors," said Garcia.

Fish, salamanders, hawks, no anxiety

Camp Howard's mascot is the cougar. But don't worry, it's only deer and raccoons that are regulars here.

"There are a lot of kids who have their very first fishing experience here at the pond," said Sister Krista we walked along the fishing pond where kids can go canoeing and look at salamanders. "It's really exciting when you get a fish on the line and reel it in all by yourself." 

Not to mention the hawks and incredible view of Mount Hood that can calm the anxiety of any kid.

Sister Krista said summer camp directors like herself from all over the country attended a summit recently and that anxiety and trauma was the number one issue facing kids today.

But studies show getting outside into nature, leaving the cellphones and reality behind just for a couple days can change their lives and give them decision making tools within themselves to conquer those battles.

And there are still open spots available for this summer.

"I do see a change in the kids who were scared to come," she say. "If they do come, it changes their lives."