It sounds like a letter from home that any summer camper might write. I had so much fun in every party. Especially the Jurassic Park Glow in the Dark party. Also, my time doing s'mores! They were the best. Beach party was so much fun! It was so dark at the beach, but the glow-in-the-dark bracelets helped to see. Another thing was star stomping. That's what I loved about Camp Westwind.
But Jody* is no ordinary summer camper.
She’s dealt with “poverty, frequent moves, the threat of deportation of her mother, and her mother's cancer diagnosis,” says Kara, Jody’s Big Sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. It’s why Kara is thankful for Camp Westwind and the YWCA of Greater Portland, a nonprofit partner of Levé that is dedicated to changing lives by empowering women and their families to achieve safety, opportunity, and independence. Camp Westwind is part of the YWCA’s youth services programming, and a scholarship from the YWCA enabled Jody to attend camp and have fun — just like any other summer camper.
“When I went to pick Jody up, she came out of the bus with a huge smile on her face and said, ‘That was awesome!’ She then proceeded to tell me almost a minute-by- minute detail of everything she experienced at camp,” Kara says.
Camp Westwind, located between Neskowin and Lincoln City on the Oregon Coast, serviced more than 1,400 youth and families last year. The camp focuses on giving youth a safe environment to foster new experiences, and also encourages independence and self-confidence while building a community.
“Initially, (Jody) was incredibly nervous to go, fearful of crossing the water from the bus drop off site to the camp. Staff made sure that she was supported in doing this. This helped her conquer her fear of water and she went kayaking three times at camp,” Kara says.
Jody is planning on attending Camp Westwind again this summer through financial support provided by the YWCA. The cost of sending one child to Camp Westwind starts at $645, and registration for the upcoming summer currently is at 89 percent capacity.
“Many families can’t afford to send their kids to camp, and sometimes, families’ situations change and a parent loses a job or has to take a pay cut. We have our scholarship program so that those parents don’t have to look into their children’s eyes and say, sorry, we can’t afford to send you to camp this year,” says Sassy, one of the camp staff members. “Everyone should be able to have the opportunity to learn and play over summer, no matter their family’s economic situation.”
Camp Westwind has given Jody a moment to simply have fun, while also helping her develop the skills she needs to grow as an adult — which is well worth the cost.
*Jody’s name has been changed to respect her privacy.
Find out more about YWCA of Greater Portland and its partnership with Levé.